Tuesday, 17 September 2019
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Social Welfare Benefits Payments
616. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will commission the establishment of a minimum social welfare floor set against the minimum essential standard of living once her plans are established to introduce a revised benchmark of social welfare payments; if this will be indicated in budget 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36986/19]
As the Deputy is aware, the Roadmap for Pensions Reform, published last year, commits the Government to examine and develop proposals to set a formal benchmark of 34% of average earnings for the State Pension 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.
Section 19 of the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Act 2018 provided that I, as Minister, would arrange to "...consult with stakeholders on examining ways in which social welfare rates are increased with the aim of ensuring adequacy for all recipients...".
In this context, my Department met with numerous interested stakeholders to solicit views on how the adoption of a benchmark, and a system of indexation, might apply to social welfare rates. This involved bilateral meetings with certain stakeholders and roundtable meetings with a range of groups. The organisations consulted included the community and voluntary pillar, ICTU, IBEC, the ESRI and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Various views were put forward as part of the consultation process including adopting an earnings link for social welfare payments, benchmarking and indexing to the Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL) measure produced by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice, adopting a twin-lock approach to indexation (wages and prices), and maintaining the current system of adjusting rates in line with available resources at Budget time.
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. No decisions have yet been made, in this regard.