Thursday, 12 July 2012

Questions (129)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

128 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason she is unable to provide a forecast service to person’s in relation to their future State pension when requested to do so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34091/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers and to utilising the potential of modern technology and available delivery channels in meeting this objective. To this end, a new application has been developed and launched early in 2011 which allows for the automatic issue of contribution statements where the person's record is in order and does not require investigation. Production of a statement of contributions involves an examination of both the computerised PRSI records from 1979 and, in some cases, the earlier paper-based records from 1953 to 1979. In normal circumstances, where the record is fully in order, statements are issued within two weeks. However, processing of requests can take longer where further information or clarification of work periods, etc. is required.

For administrative reasons, a decision was taken in May 2007 to stop providing the traditional forecast service and to replace this with the provision of a copy of the individual's contribution history along with a booklet entitled "Working it Out". The contribution history record, along with the guide, provides the customer with the information required to decide when to retire and how best to optimise their State Pension entitlement. The change has also enabled the State Pension Section to concentrate on the primary task of processing pension claims and in implementing improvements to the service provided to people on reaching pension age. State Pension claims are now processed in a timely manner, with in excess of 90% of these claims awarded before the customer reaches pension age. The Department has also developed a claim initiation service whereby customers who are known to have an entitlement to State Pension are pro-actively invited to apply.

There are no plans to re-establish a pensions forecasting service as the focus remains on processing pension claims in a timely manner and available resources are prioritised for this purpose. However, the Department will continue to provide the current service (a copy of the person's record along with the information booklet) to enable customers to work out their entitlements and the network of Local Offices and Citizens Information Offices will continue to serve as points of contact to assist people in this regard.