Belfast Telegraph

New pension scheme will see teachers work to 68 in Northern Ireland

By Rebecca Black

A controversial new pension scheme that will see teachers paying higher contributions and working for longer has been passed by the Assembly despite concerns.

The scheme - which becomes active in two weeks' time - will see young teachers entering the profession now potentially working until they are 68.

Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn queried this approach when only 18% of teaching graduates are able to get jobs in the profession.

The new pension scheme was passed by the Assembly last year as part of major public sector pension reforms handed down by Westminster.

Yesterday the Assembly passed regulations required for it to function.

Education Minister John O'Dowd described the regulations he proposed yesterday as "small and technical changes".

They mainly concerned teachers who would retire early through ill health, and included a provision to ensure they would not need to be assessed twice and that they would be compatible with the tax system.

Chair of the Education committee, Michelle McIlveen, said members were content to allow the regulations to pass.

However, she added that some had reservations about the changes to the pension scheme generally.

Mr Lunn told the Assembly that: "Some reservations was an understatement.

"Only 18% of teacher graduates get a job, they will be paying 9.6%, well above the rate for a civil service pension, and with employer contributions of 13%, well below the rate for a civil service pension," he told the Assembly.

"Working until 68 will hit those teachers coming into the profession for the first time now. Most teachers retire by 60, not burned out, but you come to the end of your useful teaching life by your late 50s.

"And what effect will teachers working until 68 have on those teachers who can't get a job."

However, Mr Lunn said he would support the regulations because: "We don't really have much option but to pass and agree to this".

Mr O'Dowd thanked MLAs for their support and told the Assembly that his hands are tied, describing the pension reforms as "forced by legislation in Westminster".

The Northern Ireland Teachers Pension Scheme (NITPS) has approximately 24,976 current members, 14,610 deferred members and 20,165 pensioners.

Meanwhile, regulations to enable a new pension scheme for firefighters were also passed at the Assembly yesterday. They will also apply from April 1.

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