The revised timeline for delivering the new auto-enrolment (AE) scheme for pensions has been described as “ambitious” by the Department of Social Protection but it insists it is “on track” for the second half of 2024.
The Irish Times reported on Tuesday that the department’s target for the introduction of the scheme has slipped from early 2024 to the second half of that year.
Officials from the Department of Finance cast doubt on whether the scheme would be ready to begin in 2024 in internal Government briefing materials prepared as far back as last December and concerns have separately been raised by organisations in the pensions field.
Jerry Moriarty, the chief executive of the Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF), which represents pension savers, said it is “not a surprise” that the start date for the new system has been pushed back to the second half of 2024.
He said: “Considering the tender for the administration contract only closed recently, the legislation has not yet been published and the investment managers also need to be tendered for, even that proposed date [second half of 2024] is ambitious.”
Mr Moriarty also said: “We are facing major demographic issues with an ageing population. Auto-enrolment is one key element to addressing that and therefore needs to be in place as soon as possible.”
Insurance Ireland, meanwhile, responded to the revised target date saying the introduction of AE “was always going to be a significant task”.
The organisation highlighted how it has “previously stated it would likely take much longer than the timelines provided for by the Department of Social Protection” and added: “The materiality and logistics of the task is now becoming clear.”
Insurance Ireland said it supported the introduction of an AE system that was “inclusive, flexible and future-proofed”.
It said: “We remain of the view that it is a missed opportunity not to utilise the existing private pension infrastructure which has been built over decades to deliver flexible pension provision in the rollout of an AE system such as we have seen in other countries.”
Insurance Ireland also said: “It is in everyone’s interest that the AE system should be a success, raising awareness in the population generally of the importance of planning for retirement.”
A Department of Social Protection statement said its officials were continuing to work on implementing the Government’s auto-enrolment plans.
It said: “This is a highly complex project with an ambitious timeline and, in that context, the commencement of the system is on track for the second half of 2024.”
Its statement also said: “Multiple workstreams are being progressed in parallel, including drafting the necessary legislation that will underpin this new retirement savings system, resourcing the organisational structure, procuring the technical and administrative system to operate it, procuring financial services for the investment of participants’ funds, and communicating this landmark reform to stakeholders and the public.”
The department added: “The tender for administrative services is already under way. The drafting of the Bill is at an advanced stage and is expected to begin its passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas in the autumn.”
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