I propose to take Questions Nos. 699, 748, 775 and 785 together.
The Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2011 provides for increases to the State pension age to make the State pension system more sustainable as life expectancy increases. This began in January 2014 with the abolition of the State Pension (Transition). This measure standardised the State pension age for all at 66 years. The legislation provides for increases to the State pension age - to 67 in 2021 and further to 68 in 2028.
The new Programme for Government “Our Shared Future” states that the planned increase in the State pension age next year will be deferred. This will require amendment to primary legislation and the Government will bring in the necessary legislation later this year.
Furthermore, a Commission on Pensions will be established to examine sustainability and eligibility issues in relation to State pensions and the Social Insurance Fund. The Commission is to report to Government by June 2021 on options including the qualifying age, contribution rates, total contributions and eligibility requirements. The Government will take action, having regard to the recommendations of the Commission, within six months. Pending the Commission’s report and any subsequent Government decisions on its recommendations, it is intended that the State pension age will remain at 66 years as at present.
The Programme also proposes an “Early Retirement Allowance or Pension” for 65 year olds paid at the same rate as Jobseekers Benefit without a requirement to sign on, partake in any activation measures or be available for and genuinely seeking work. The new allowance will be introduced as early as possible for those who are retired from employment. Officials in my Department are currently assessing the necessary legislation, ICT systems and administrative processes required for the introduction of this payment.
I hope this clarifies matters for the Deputies.