Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
State Pension (Contributory)
606. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to ensure an increased pension with regard to years spent as a carer or homemaker is awarded to a person (details supplied). [9234/19]
Since late September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of approximately 90,000 pensioners, born on or after 1 September 1946, who have a reduced rate State pension contributory entitlement on post Budget 2012 rate bands. These payments are being reviewed under a new Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to pension calculation which includes provision for homecaring periods. My Department has already written to these pensioners to explain the process.
I have last week signed the necessary regulations, which together provisions in the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registrations Act 2018, allows the increased payments to be made on foot of the reviews. The Department has already started issuing the outcome of reviews and the first increased payments will start to issue this week. These increased payments will include arrears to 30 March 2018, or the pensioner's 66th birthday if later. Where a person's pension rate does not increase as a result of this review, the person will continue to be paid at their existing rate of entitlement. No one will be worse off as a result of this review.
Where possible, my Department will use information already held to assist in the reviews. In some, but not all, cases additional information is required from pensioners about unexplained gaps in their social insurance record to complete their review. Since January, almost 24,000 requests for additional information were issued. The person concerned received a request for further information. The information request letter includes details of how to provide the required information using my Department’s online services. This is the easiest way to provide the requested information. The letter includes a dedicated telephone number for those who may need help or support to make their application. Those who do not have access to a personal computer, or the internet, can also call the telephone number provided on the letter to request a paper application. Paper applications have started to issue this week to those who have requested them.
I want to assure the Deputy that regardless of when a person’s review is processed, if they are due an increase their weekly rate will be adjusted without delay and arrears paid, backdated to 30 March 2018, or the person's 66th birthday if later. Given the numbers involved, it will take my Department a number of months to complete the reviews. Around 120 additional temporary staff have been recruited to help with this work.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.