Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Questions (1241)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

1241. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when she plans to introduce changes to pensions (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12846/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

In January 2018, I announced the Government Decision to introduce a new interim Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to the calculation of State Pension (Contributory) for pensioners born on or after 1 September 1946, who were awarded state pension (contributory) under the post 2012 rate bands. This approach, which includes generous provision for homecaring periods, will benefit many such pensioners, especially those who took time out of the workplace for caring purposes. The required primary legislative provisions are contained in the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Act 2018, enacted on 24 December 2018. All the necessary regulatory and system changes have now been made to allow the increased payments to begin.

My Department is now reviewing the pension payments of approximately 91,000 pensioners who were awarded less than the maximum rate of pension since September 2012. Given the number of pensioners involved, this work will take a number of months to complete. The increased payments will also include arrears to the 30th March 2018, or the pensioner’s 66th birthday if later. The Department is using information it already has to complete these reviews. However, in quite a number of cases, additional information is required from the pensioners concerned about gap periods in their social insurance records and my Department will be in touch with each of those pensioners individually to get that information.

As regards the TCA model that will apply for all new pensioners post-2020, I launched a public consultation on the design of the full scheme on 28 May to which a wide variety of stakeholder groups were invited. A number of workshops were also held on the day to elicit views and feedback. All Oireachtas members were invited to a detailed briefing in Leinster House by my officials shortly afterwards. The consultation was open for over three months and the Department received almost 300 responses from individuals and organisations. Those submissions outlined the views of respondents on a number of issues, including the number of years required for a full pension, as intended as part of the consultation process.

I intend bringing a proposal to Government shortly, setting out the proposed details of the scheme. When the Government has agreed the approach to be taken, I will initiate the work required to introduce this reform. I can confirm that the model will include provision for homecaring periods.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.