I propose to take Questions Nos. 84, 89 and 120 together.
Pensioners born on or after 1 September 1946 and affected by the 2012 changes in rate bands can have their State pension (contributory) entitlement calculated under an interim total-contributions approach. The announced changes also provide for up to 20 years of home-caring credits in the pension-entitlement calculation, for those who took time out of the workplace for parenting or caring duties.
Significant preparatory work was required to design and develop the necessary IT system changes and the necessary legislative provisions to underpin these changes, as published in the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill last week.
The most recent data, which became available at the end of October, identified approximately 79,000 pensioners to be reviewed under this new system. Of these, over 70,000 reside in Ireland. The first 11,000 information letters issued last week to Irish residents. I expect the remainder to issue by the end of this week or early next week at the latest. More than 8,000 pensioners resident outside of Ireland are expected to receive letters in December.
The letter informs pensioners that my Department will contact them again directly with either the outcome of their individual review, where sufficient information is available to make a decision for them, or to request further information regarding gaps in their social insurance record. However, it is not necessary for anyone to contact the Department on this matter; we will do the contacting of the recipients.
Over 60 temporary staff have been recruited to examine the social insurance records of these pensioners. This phase is expected to continue to the end of the year. Following further recruitment planned for January 2019, reviews and payments will commence in the first quarter of next year. It will take my Department a number of months to work through the reviews and the payments.
Where an increase is awarded, it will be paid immediately and backdated to 30 March 2018, or the person's 66th birthday, if later, and arrears will be paid. Pensioners who do not qualify for an increase will continue to receive their existing rate of entitlement.