Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

As I was saying last night when the debate on this subject adjourned, there are anomalies that should be addressed and they arise as a result of the methodology used in the determination of entitlement in respect of the contributions, mainly for women but also for men, where there is a shortfall that determines that they are not entitled to the full rate of pension. There still should be a system whereby there is a full examination of the various employments individuals were in over their working lifespan. That enabled the Department to make a determination that if persons did not have contributions to show for that period, they were accredited with the contributions and, as a result, were able to qualify for a higher rate pension. I have raised the point over the years in the House, although not with the Minister or her predecessor, that there seems to be a reluctance on the part of the relevant section to go back and include all of the employments that persons might have held to determine whether or not contributions were due arising from those employments. In some cases, even in a reply to a parliamentary question, the follow-up does not specifically deal in detail with the situation. There have been instances in the past where up to ten contributions have been discovered, albeit late in the day, they have been brought to the attention of the relevant section and, subsequently, the individual applicant has been able to avail of the benefit of those contributions.

We had a discussion last night about fraud and alleged fraud, etc., and I want to deal with it in some detail. Of course, we need to be always conscious not to give the impression that the House in any way encourages fraud but there is always the question that payments, inadvertently, because they are made directly into a bank account, post office savings account or whatever nowadays is beneficial in terms of efficiency, do not always carry with them the information made available to the section - the information may not have been carried forward from the section or transferred to the relevant person who is responsible - with the result that the person's payment continued when he or she did not have an entitlement. That needs to be streamlined somewhat in an effort to ensure that recipients are not faced with a bill for an overpayment through no fault of their own. It is important because in some cases it can cause quite an amount of hardship afterwards when the individual is faced with this request for repayment. Of course, the applicant will be aggrieved because he or she did not cause the problem in the first place.

There are a number of issues I will address in the remaining minute and a half. There will be an opportunity to look in detail at the issues that need to be dealt with in quite an amount of the social welfare legislation and to look at anomalies and to deal with them because they have been in need of review and revision for some time. There are many traps whereby people are excluded from the system. I do not want to go into any great deal on it because I hope to deal with it again under a different heading. I refer to the question of the spouse or partner who, even though he or she worked to a considerable extent in a business and made a major contribution, does not qualify for a non-contributory pension at all because his or her spouse may have a private pension.

There is a need to review those particular glitches which cause problems for some people of pension age. At a vulnerable time in their lives, such people need a bit of reassurance and I hope the Minister will be able to take the opportunity to evaluate the position and address those issues.

Debate adjourned.