I propose to take Questions Nos. 886 to 888, inclusive, and 890 together.
The Roadmap for Pensions Reform, published last year, commits the Government to examine and develop proposals to set a formal benchmark target of 34% of average earnings for the State Pension (contributory) and to institute a process whereby future changes in pension rates of payment are explicitly linked to changes in consumer prices and average wages. The Department is currently considering options to implement this commitment, having examined previous studies on benchmarking and indexation, international experience and examination of a range of potential benchmarks and indices.
The cost of increasing the state pension contributory by €9 per week, including proportionate increases for qualified adults and those on reduced rates, is estimated at €176.3 million. The cost of increasing all pension rates by €9 per week, including proportionate increases for qualified adults and those on reduced rates, is estimated at €297.2 million.
The Living Alone Increase is a supplementary payment for people on certain social welfare payments who are living alone. The estimated cost of raising the Living Alone Increase by €3 per week, from €9 to €12, is €32.6 million.
Those in receipt of a social welfare pension automatically receive an increase when they reach 80 years of age. The cost of increasing the Over 80 Allowance by €2 per week, from €10 to €12, is €17.5 million.
The fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week from October to April to over 373,000 low-income households, at an estimated cost of €235 million in 2019. The purpose of this payment is to assist these households with their energy costs. The estimated cost of increasing the fuel allowance to 32 weeks from 28 weeks to those eligible is €33.6 million.
Any changes to the above schemes would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context. It should also be noted that the costs above are subject to change in the context of emerging trends and associated revision of the estimated numbers of beneficiaries.