Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
52. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the ongoing review of those in receipt of contributory pensions since 2012; when the reviews will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53388/18]
59. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when women on reduced contributory pensions since 2012 owing to time spent caring in the home can expect to hear the results of their reviews; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53438/18]
61. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the review of pensions affected by the social insurance band changes in budget 2012; the number contacted to date for assessment; the number of assessments completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52802/18]
87. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when the entire review process for those affected by the 2012 contributory pension changes will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53416/18]
Will the Minister update the House on the ongoing review of those in receipt of contributory pensions since 2012? When does she expect the review to be completed? As people throughout the country have received the letters about it, it would be good to receive an update on its status.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 52, 59, 61 and 87 together.
I might attempt to finish on a positive note. I thank Deputy Heydon who has had a particular interest in recent months in representing women in the main from his constituency until we get this over the line.
In late September, following the phased recruitment of more than 70 temporary staff, the examination of approximately 79,000 individual social insurance records of pensioners identified for review commenced. The work will continue until the end of the year. Given that we are close to that time, I expect the review to come to an end at the end of this week. The number for review will increase weekly, as new non-maximum rate contributory State pension claims are awarded. Information letters have issued to the 79,000 pensioners to let them know that their social insurance records are being examined. Once the legislation is enacted which happened yesterday, my Department will commence the reviews and calculate their pension entitlements using the interim total contributions approach, TCA. As the reviews are processed, the pensioners involved will be notified of the outcome of their review, or if it is not obvious to us owing to gaps in payment records, they will be asked to provide further information to allow the review to be concluded. Where the review results in a rate increase, their weekly payment will be adjusted and arrears owed will be backdated to 30 March 2018, or the pensioner's 66th birthday, if later than 30 March 2018. Where an increase is not awarded, their personal rate of pension will remain unchanged.
Given the numbers involved, I expect it to take my Department a number of months to work through all of the claim reviews and give a final award settlement to those who are successful. Work on the reviews will continue until all identified pensioners have been notified of their review outcome. I hope that brings the Deputy up to date.
When does the Minister expect the first decisions to be made? I accept that the entire process will take some months to complete and that it will be some time before the final payments are made. Difficult cases in which information must be provided will take longer to complete. Can some people expect to receive confirmation of decisions in January or February? Does the Minister expect a significant number of payments to be made in the early part of the year? I continue to ask about this issue because there is significant interest in it. Up to the point when letters arrived people probably doubted that anything was happening. It is important for them to be reassured that the payments will be backdated to March 2018. Will the Minister give a broad outline of when she thinks the first decisions will be made and how many cases will be processed in the first few months of 2019? I accept that 79,000 is a significant number of cases for the departmental officials to examine.
The Deputy should not apologise for asking questions. I doubt that there is any Deputy in the House who does not meet women who ask the same questions at the weekend. I certainly do. Of the 79,000 who received a letter, we have completed a review of social insurance records for approximately 55,000. Therefore, there will be no need for us to interact with that cohort as the system is automated. However, one cannot automate everything on day one. The process will start in January and people will begin to receive notification, week by week, as we go through and complete cases.
Where people have gaps in their records, they are also very clear and obvious to us and they will receive a letter asking them to log on to the mywelfare.iepage to fill in the gaps or contact the local office to give it the information. It will be evident early in 2019 that people will start to receive not only their increased payments but also their backdated payments to March 2018. Those who have gaps in their records will be contacted where we cannot find an obvious explanation, for example, for missing contributions in 1972 or 1979 because we cannot match them with the PPS number of a child who was born in the same year. We have done all of the preparatory back-office work with individuals where we can. That is how we have been able to provide complete records for approximately 55,000 people.
Where we do not have those complete records, we will contact people very early in the new year and ask them to come forward. The Deputy will see movement. If somebody is at home and does not get a letter or payment by the middle of February, he or she should not worry. We took on 70 new staff to do this but there are 79,000 individual records. We have allocated for January, February and March.