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 based 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.
Wherever possible, reviews will be processed using information already held by my Department. In some cases additional information is being requested to ensure people receive the best rate possible. Approximately 25,000 requests for information have issued to date. It is important that prompt responses are received to those requests so that the reviews can be completed as quickly as possible.
Reviews commenced from 13 February 2019, the day after I signed the necessary regulations which together with provisions in the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registrations Act 2018, allow the increased payments to be made. The most recently available figures show that as at week ending 22 March 2019, 8,367 reviews have been completed.
It will take a number of months to complete all the reviews due to the number involved and the individual nature of social insurance records. Over 100 temporary staff have been recruited to help with this work. Outcomes will issue to all pensioners in writing when their review is complete.
Regardless of when a review is conducted, where an increase in payment is due, the person's rate of payment will be adjusted without delay and arrears issued backdated to 30 March 2018, or the pensioner’s 66th birthday if later. Where a person's rate does not increase following a review, the person will continue to receive their existing rate of payment.
Given the scale (90,000 pensioners) involved, the fact that each case requires close individual examination and that some cases are more complex than others, it would not be reasonable to expect all to be processed immediately. While this work will take a number of months to complete, it will continue until all pensioners have been notified of the outcome of their review in writing.
Where possible, reviews will be processed based on information already held by the Department. For the majority of pensioners the next letter they receive from the Department (after the first letter) will be a review outcome letter. Where additional information is required to complete the review, a written request is being sent to the pensioner directly. Almost 24,000 requests for information issued in January and another 11,000 will be issuing to customers in the coming weeks. I would urge anyone who has yet to provide additional requested information to the Department to do so as soon as possible so that their review can be processed.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.