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.
My Department is currently considering options to implement this commitment, by examining previous studies on benchmarking and indexation, international experience and examination of a range of potential benchmarks and indices.
Any change to the current process of setting social welfare rates of payment would require Government approval and would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context. This would include taking account of stakeholder views, as well as considerations of cost, work incentives, poverty alleviation, policy alignment and the administration of any proposed system.
In terms of the wider application of indexation of social welfare payments generally, Section 19 of the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Act 2018 provides that I and my Department will arrange to “consult with stakeholders on examining ways in which social welfare rates are increased with the aim of ensuring adequacy for all recipients and shall do so in quarter 1 of 2019”. In this context, my Department met with numerous interested stakeholders to gather views on how the adoption of a benchmark, and a system of indexation, might work for social welfare rates more generally. In addition, this issue was considered and discussed at my Department's Pre-Budget Forum earlier this month. The Pre-Budget Forum included representatives from the Community and Voluntary Sector, ICTU and IBEC among others. I would also welcome views from all political parties who are interested in this area.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.