Saturday 17 November 2018

Doherty's officials won't give briefing on pension policy

Regina Doherty Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Regina Doherty Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Anne-Marie Walsh

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty's officials are refusing to give a basic briefing on her plan to deal with the growing pensions crisis.

The document, 'A Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018-2023', was launched in the middle of the Storm Emma blizzard, so it garnered little publicity.

The issue will affect millions of workers over the coming decades. Two-thirds of private sector workers don't have any fall-back bar the State pension in old age, and actuaries have warned the cost of the State pension is unsustainable.

Despite repeated attempts by the Irish Independent to get a full explanation of how the measures will affect workers, this newspaper was denied a one-to-one meeting with officials. Ironically, one of the objectives of the 48-page document is a 'communication campaign' to encourage people to work longer.

Its centrepiece is a new auto-enrolment scheme being set up for most private sector workers from 2022.

There are also measures that aim to help workers in defined benefit schemes with deficits, reduce the cost of pension scheme fees and calculate the State pension in a fairer way.

But after this newspaper asked Ms Doherty's adviser Gerry Mullins for a briefing by department officials on the roadmap to could explain it to readers, the answer was no.

This newspaper explained the desire to discuss the impact of the various measures on workers in different age groups, as well as pensioners.

According to the Departmnment's communications office, the officials do not see it as their job to give briefings and are worried about what could be read into what they say.

The office said how the measures are "put in the document" are how they "need to be put" and officials prefer to respond in emails.

Government departments frequently give briefings on on policies in the interests of explaining complex issues to public. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform gave a full briefing when it launched a pension scheme for new public service recruits in 2013.

Officials also provided briefings on Project Ireland 2040.

Irish Independent

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