Leo Varadkar pledges to develop and commence pension reform plan in 2017

Minister's 2017 priorities also include a plan to develop proposals to further extend social insurance to self-employed

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Minister Leo Varadkar has confirmed he is looking to reform pensions in 2017.

The Social Protection Minister has published his priorities for the year ahead.

He says his department will develop, publish and commence the implementation of an Action Plan for the Reform of Pensions.

Minister Varadkar says it will include a road map for the reform of the state pension.

It follows reports yesterday that the Government will start 2017 by discussing possible changes to employment law - including a revision to the retirement age.

The plans for the year also include an expansion of the school meals scheme for children in disadvantaged areas, and plans to develop and launch a work experience programme to replace JobBridge (that internship programme was closed in October).

There is also a pledge to develop proposals to extend more social protections for the self-employed - including a form of jobseekers benefit.

In a statement, Minister Varadkar said: "In 2016 we were able to bring unemployment down to 7.3% and we exceeded our target to get 20,000 long-term unemployed into work. Other highlights were the successful introduction of Paternity Benefit with more than 3,500 fathers already availing, securing increases across the board in welfare payments for people with disabilities, carers, blind people, widows, one parent families, and jobseekers, as well as pensioners, and paying the Christmas bonus at 85%.

"In the year ahead my focus will be firmly on employment, pension reform, developing the Working Family Payment to reduce child poverty and ensure that no family is better off on welfare than in work, and further develop the New Deal for the Self-Employed. I intend to further extend benefits for all PRSI contributors, recalibrate labour activation programmes, further expand the school meals programme, and make further inroads in combating fraud," he added.