Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Ceisteanna (642, 643)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

642. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the extent to which she expects to be in a position to address the pensions issue for persons who have gaps in their contribution record for whatever reason with a view to ensuring the availability of a payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8436/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

643. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the extent to which she expects to be in a position to address the pension concerns of women that have taken time off from their employment to rear their families and subsequently gone back to work with the result of having an insufficient profile of contributions to qualify for the State pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8437/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 642 and 643 together.

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 Budget 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.  My Department will start issuing the outcome of reviews and the first increased payments this week.  Any 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. 

In the longer-term, the Government intends to introduce a Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to establishing the level of entitlement for all new state pension contributory claims from 2020 onwards (TCA2020).  This is in keeping with the National Pensions Framework and with the Government's Roadmap for Pensions Reform.

I launched a public consultation on the design of the full TCA to be introduced from 2020 on the 28th of 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 3 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 have recently been provided with an analysis of the views submitted in the consultation.  Once I've fully considered this analysis, I intend bring a proposal to Government setting out the 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 cannot, at this point, pre-empt the Government decision regarding the full details of the new scheme.  However, I can confirm that the model will include provision for homecaring periods.  People will be informed of the details of the scheme as soon as possible, following the Government decision.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.