142. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on whether it is acceptable that families of Defence Forces members are dependent on family income supplement payments to cover household costs; the measures being undertaken to address this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 15962/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 143 together.

Rates of pay and conditions of employment in the Defence Forces have traditionally been set by, inter alia, reference to relative levels of pay across the various sectors of the Irish public sector.

The Working Family Payment (formerly the Family Income Supplement) provides a means to supplement a family’s income, be they employed in the public or private sector. Eligibility for Working Family Payment is determined having regard to criteria such as family income and the number of dependents. Pay levels in the Public Service, including the Defence Forces, are determined having regard to the particular requirements for specific positions, and are not weighted in accordance with family circumstances.

Defence Forces pay is increasing in accordance with public sector pay agreements. The focus of these increases is weighted in favour of those on lower pay. The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 provides for increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the Agreement with the focus of the agreement once again being on the lower paid. The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 will also restore payscales to all public servants (including members of the Permanent Defence Force) earning up to €70,000. The restoration of cuts to allowances will also be considered in the context of the Agreement. The first instalment of an increase of 1% on annualised salaries due from 1 January 2018 has been paid to members of the Permanent Defence Force.

In 2017, under my direction, the Department of Defence raised recruitment and retention issues as part of the submission to the Public Service Pay Commission. In a further acknowledgement of these issues the Government tasked the Public Service Pay Commission with examining these challenges in the Defence Sector in more detail. The Public Service Pay Commission has commenced this work and has requested detailed information from the Department of Defence. The Department has forwarded an initial tranche of information to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and will forward further information in the coming weeks. The Public Service Pay Commission is due to complete this exercise in the second half of 2018. The findings and proposals arising will be considered at that time.