State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (75)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

75. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a decision has been made on the final design of the total contributions approach to be introduced in 2020; and if not, the date on which such a decision will be made. [8110/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

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). 

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.  I intend to bring a proposal to Government shortly, 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, including the necessary legislation and systems development. 

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.

Parental Leave

Ceisteanna (76)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

76. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the introduction of a new social insurance parental benefit payment to be paid for two weeks to each parent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8107/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

In Budget 2019, I announced the introduction of a new social insurance based paid parental benefit scheme which will provide two weeks paid leave to both parents. 

The new scheme will be available to parents including those who adopt a child, who are employees or self-employed and who have the required number of PRSI contributions.  This new scheme of parental benefit will support parents during the first year of the child's life and allows parents more flexibility in achieving and managing a work life balance.

The two weeks parental benefit available to both parents will not be shared and cannot be transferred between parents.  This recognises that the provision of paid parental leave will be more effective and appropriate in terms of encouraging both fathers and mothers to take time off work to take care of their children. 

The scheme will commence in late 2019 and will be available to parents in respect of children born on or after the date of its implementation.  The specific details of the scheme are being examined as part of the legislative drafting process undertaken by my Department and the Department of Justice and Equality, which has overall responsibility for parental leave policy.

I trust this clarifies the matter at this time.

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (77)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

77. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when she expects paper forms to be available for use by those in receipt of reduced contributory pensions post-2012 who have been unable to complete the online review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8067/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Since the end of September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of pensioners born on or after 1 September 1946 who have an entitlement to and are being paid a reduced State pension Contributory under post Budget 2012 rate bands.  Their rate of payment will be reviewed under recently enacted legislation.

Last month, almost 24,000 requests for additional information have been issued to pensioners. These requests includes details on how to return the required information using the Department’s online services and also provided a dedicated telephone number to to call if people had difficulty using the online application.  Details of those who called have been recorded so that paper applications could be issued to them.  Paper applications have began issuing this week to these pensioners.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (78, 100, 104)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

78. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when pension increases and back payments in relation to recent changes to the contributory pension scheme will be issued; when difficulties being experienced on the website MyWelfare.ie will be resolved; and when a paper application form inviting pensioners to fill in gaps in their records will be issued. [8007/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

100. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when pension increases and back payments will be issued to those impacted by previous changes to the State pension system; her plans to address the difficulties being experienced by those affected by the website MyWelfare.ie; when paper application forms inviting pensioners to fill in gaps in their records will be available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8115/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

104. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if all those who qualify for a revised contributory pension will be paid the revised amount backdated to March 2018 by the end of the first quarter of 2019; if those affected by same can provide the necessary information in writing rather than online; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that persons are experiencing difficulties with the online platform; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8046/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78, 100 and 104 together.

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 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.  My Department has already written to these pensioners to explain the process.

I have this week signed the necessary regulations, which together provisions in the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registrations Act 2018, allows the increased payments to be made on foot of the reviews.  The Department has already started issuing the outcome of reviews and the first increased payments will start to issue next week, in line with my previous commitments to this House.  These increased payments will include arrears to the 30th March 2018, or the pensioner’s 66th birthday if later than that.  Where pension rates do not increase as a result of this review, they will continue to be paid at their existing rate of entitlement. No one will be worse off as a result of this review. 

Where possible, my Department will use information already held to assist in the reviews.  In some, but not all, cases additional information is required from pensioners about unexplained gaps in their social insurance record to complete their review.  In January, almost 24,000 requests for additional information were issued.  These requests included details on how to provide the required information using the Department’s online services.  Provision has been made for those who do not have access to a personal computer, or the internet, by providing a dedicated telephone number to request paper forms which will issue over the next two weeks.  I am aware that some pensioners have reported difficulties accessing the online service and this is being examined as a matter of urgency. 

I want to assure the Deputies that regardless of when a person’s review is processed, if they are due an increase their weekly rate will be adjusted without delay and arrears paid, backdated to 30 March 2018, or the person’s 66th birthday if later.  Where a pension rate does not increase as a result of this review, the person will continue to receive their existing rate of payment.  No one will be worse off as a result of this review.  Given the numbers involved, it will take my Department a number of months to complete the reviews.  Around 120 additional temporary staff have been recruited to help with this work.     

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputies.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ceisteanna (79)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

79. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on Intreo offices having the right to make recipients of social welfare payments take up employment outside of their chosen profession or vocation; and her further views of whether it negates the ability of a person to pursue their chosen profession. [8044/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

In order to qualify for a jobseeker’s payment, a person must satisfy certain conditions including being available for and genuinely seeking work.  

A recently unemployed person would be regarded as available where they are seeking to become re-employed in their usual employment, provided there is a reasonable prospect of this.  However, if it is the case that there are limited employment opportunities within their chosen profession or vocation in a local area, a person would be expected to broaden their search either to a wider area or to other types of employment.  For a person to be considered as genuinely seeking work they must demonstrate that they are making genuine efforts to secure employment.

In this regard, my Department provides opportunities for jobseekers to upskill and to avail of back to education and other training opportunities in order to enhance their opportunities to return to work.

Case officers in my Department engage with jobseekers and work with them to agree a personal progression plan and support them in order to avail of all reasonable training and employment opportunities offered to them.

I trust this clarifies this matter for the Deputy.

Defined Benefit Pension Schemes

Ceisteanna (80, 108)

John Brady

Ceist:

80. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the protections in place for members of defined benefit pension schemes in cases in which an employer seeks to move away from such a scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7992/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

108. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of her plans to protect defined benefit pension schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8114/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 108 together.

Defined Benefit (DB) schemes are voluntary tri-partite arrangements between employers, employees (or their representatives) and trustees.  Responsibility rests with all the parties for ensuring that the scheme is properly managed and funded to meet the promised level of benefits. Almost all Irish defined benefit pension schemes have a rule that allows the employer to cease contributions, usually after a notice period. 

Currently there is no legislative obligation on an employer to make contributions and no further liability on an employer where contributions cease.  Neither is there an obligation on an employer to give notice to members or to consult in advance of ceasing contributions. 

Where a scheme is closed to new members or to future accrual of benefits, the sponsoring employer role continues in relation to that scheme.  Where a defined benefit scheme is closed to future accrual of benefits the scheme remains subject, under EU and Irish law, to the funding standard requirements and to the Pensions Act generally.  It must continue to satisfy the minimum funding standard into the future. 

Scheme trustees have duties and responsibilities under trust law, under the Pensions Act 1990, as amended, and under other relevant legislation.  The duties of pension scheme trustees include administering the scheme in accordance with the law and the terms of the trust deed and scheme rules as well as ensuring compliance with the requirements that apply to these schemes.  Trustees must act in the best interests of all scheme members, whether active, deferred or retired, and must serve all beneficiaries of the scheme impartially. 

As the Deputies will be aware, the General Scheme of the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2017 (now the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017) was published in May 2017 and contained a number of key measures relating to DB pension schemes.  It is intended that these measures will act to support existing provisions in the Pensions Act by providing for further protection for scheme members’ benefits and enhancing employer responsibilities for their schemes.

In July 2018, Government approval was obtained to draft additional provisions to be included in the Bill at Committee Stage including provisions relating to defined benefit schemes.

In developing these provisions, it is essential to be cognisant of the current pension landscape in Ireland so that a balanced, proportionate approach is developed and that unintended negative consequences do not arise.

The provisions of this Bill will introduce a new regime into the Pensions Act 1990 which, amongst other things, will ensure that an employer cannot “walk away” at short notice from the pension scheme it is supporting by providing for a 12-month notification period, and will enable the Pensions Authority to make a funding obligation direction specifying payments to be made by a sponsoring employer to the pension scheme where no agreement is reached, within a specified time period, to resolve a funding deficit.

The defined benefit pension provisions are very technical and involve complex policy issues.  In order to achieve a resilient solution it has been necessary to consult in detail with other Government Departments and obtain numerous legal advices from the Office of the Attorney General on various aspects of the provisions.  When outstanding matters have been resolved and amendments approved by Government, an early date for Committee Stage will be requested.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputies.

Local Employment Service

Ceisteanna (81)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

81. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on a report (details supplied) commissioned by her Department which found value for money in local employment services despite reduced funding in recent years; her plans to reconfigure public employment services in 2020; if the value of community not-for-profit employment services will be preserved over private sector models; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8095/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department commissioned Indecon to complete an independent, evidence–based evaluation of the effectiveness and efficiency and of the governance of the Local Employment Services and Job Clubs.  The report was published in January 2019.

The key findings of the reports have been noted and any actions taken on foot of this report will help to ensure that my Department continue to deliver a quality service to its customers whilst also ensuring that taxpayers are getting value for money.  My Department is continually engaged in ensuring all contracted public employment services are fit for purpose.

The current contracts for the Local Employment Services and Job Clubs are due to expire at end-2019.  No formal tendering process for 2020 is currently underway and no final decisions have been made in this regard.

My Department will continue to consult with the relevant stakeholders to ensure that any future contracted public employment services give the best possible service for those who wish to return to the labour market.

Departmental Strategies

Ceisteanna (82)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

82. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when the new national action plan for social inclusion 2018 to 2021 will be published; the reason it has not been published to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8047/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

My Department is finalising the new social inclusion strategy with a proposed six year timeframe covering the period 2019 – 2025.  It will have a ‘whole of government’ approach which recognises the shared responsibility across Government to achieve improved outcomes for the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society. 

The SILC data for 2017 showed that the consistent poverty rate had decreased to 6.7% in, from 8.2% in 2016.  The percentage of the population experiencing deprivation also significantly decreased, falling to 18.8% from the 2016 figure of 21%.  These figures demonstrate that the Government’s approach to tackling poverty through the provision of income supports, access to quality services and supports for people in taking up employment is working.

This approach will be continued in the new strategy which will have a theme of active inclusion to enable every citizen, notably the most disadvantaged, to fully participate in society, including having a job.

It is my intention that the strategy will be published in Q2 2019.

Social Welfare Benefits Waiting Times

Ceisteanna (83)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

83. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the average time required to process means-tested applications for various social welfare entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8097/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The processing times for means-tested schemes where available are detailed in the following tabular statement.

Scheme

Average Time to Award (Weeks)

Carer's Allowance 

16

Disability Allowance

14

Domiciliary Care Allowance

11

Jobseeker's Allowance

1

One Parent Family Payment

5

State Pension Non Contributory Pension

11

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

1

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

Ceisteanna (84)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

84. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to introduce changes to the means testing in the social welfare system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8088/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Social welfare legislation provides that, for means-tested social assistance schemes, all income and assets belonging to the claimant, and his or her spouse/partner where applicable, is assessable for means testing purposes.  Specific disregards apply for certain sources of income. The purpose of the means test is to ensure that resources are directed to those with the greatest need for income supports by the State.

There have been a number of recent improvements in social welfare means testing.   

I was pleased to announce in Budget 2019 that the earnings disregard for the One Parent Family and Jobseeker's Transition Payments will increase to €150 per week from next month.

Also, from next month, I am introducing a disregard for maintenance payments for the Working Family Payment scheme for the first time, in line with the disregards that currently apply across most social assistance schemes i.e. a disregard of €95.23 per week, with the remainder assessed at 50%.

Where a person in receipt of disability allowance is engaged in employment, the first €120 per week of earnings is fully disregarded in the means assessment, with earnings between €120 and €350 per week assessed at 50%.  The recently enacted Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2018 included the provision to remove the legislative requirement that this employment be of a rehabilitative nature.  This provision also applies to the Blind Pension scheme.  I was pleased to implement this Make Work Pay recommendation and improve the means testing arrangements for these schemes.

In addition, in recent months, disregards have been introduced for specific payments.  This includes any payments made by Sport Ireland under the International Carding Scheme, payments made by the Northern Ireland Victim and Survivor Service in accordance with the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and any ex gratia payments made by the Minister of Health in accordance with recommendations proposed by the Scoping Inquiry into the CervicalCheck Screening Programme. Each of these payments are fully disregarded for social assistance means-testing purposes, and also in relation to qualifying for a increase for a qualified adult payment, and for the Working Family Payment.

As per Section 21 of the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Act 2018, my Department will review the current means testing arrangements of maintenance payments and lay a report before the Houses of the Oireachtas before the end of June 2019.

JobPath Programme

Ceisteanna (85)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

85. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to continue contracts with JobPath providers in view of the recent Dáil Éireann motion in relation to the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8008/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Government's position on the recent motion debated in the House on the JobPath service was clearly set out in my contribution at the time.  I note the views of the House on the matter, however, the position of the Government remains unchanged.  My Department has entered into legally binding agreements with the JobPath providers and the Government will honour these contractual commitments.

I will reiterate again that JobPath service performance recorded and published by the Department exceeds contracted target levels, that creditable large scale customer research - also published by the Department - shows very high levels of customer satisfaction and that complaint levels are very low.   

The Department also operates a robust inspection and compliance system and a detailed report from the Comptroller and Auditor General found made no recommendations in regard to how the service is governed. 

The Department will shortly publish the results of an econometric evaluation of the service which will further indicate that the outcomes for participating  jobseekers both in terms of employment and earnings are better than those of non-participants.  Compared to this body of evidence I note the criticisms of the service are based on anecdote or very small scale research which would not be considered as reliable evidence in any serious evaluation of the service.

I previously asked Deputies to forward me examples of cases that they believed substantiated the criticisms of the service.  Since the debate on the private members motion I was provided with just one example of a person who expressed dissatisfaction with the service.  This case is being reviewed but the nature of the complaint does not differ greatly from representations which are occasionally received in respect of other activation services including the Department's own Intreo service.  It is certainly not suggestive of any widespread or systemic issues with the service, over and above that that would be expected in a service that has now served over 200,000 people.

I am therefore satisfied that the proper course of action is to continue with the service in order to support long term unemployed jobseekers.

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

Ceisteanna (86, 103)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

86. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of her plans to extend jobseeker's benefit to the self-employed; if illness benefit will be extended to the self-employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8048/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tom Neville

Ceist:

103. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of plans to extend PSRI insurance-based benefits to the self-employed who become unemployed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8102/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 103 together.

In Budget 2019, I announced a new scheme which will provide a PRSI insurance based benefit to self-employed people who lose employment.  This measure will be introduced later this year and builds on other recent significant improvements for the self-employed such as access to invalidity pension and treatment benefits.  It is part of the Government’s aim of creating a supportive environment for entrepreneurship, including providing an income safety net to employees and self-employed alike.  

Applicants will have to satisfy the qualifying conditions for the new scheme including satisfying a PRSI contribution requirement.  They will have access to the full range of activation supports available to other jobseekers such as referral to group information sessions, one to one interviews and subsequent caseworker support.  The statutory conditions and requirements for the scheme are being worked through by officials at this time as part of the legislative process.

Any further changes such as the extension of illness benefit to the self-employed would have to be considered in a budgetary context and within the scope of the overall resources available for welfare improvements.   

I trust this clarifies the matter at this time.

Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

Ceisteanna (87)

John Brady

Ceist:

87. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when the report into the impact of reduced jobseeker's payments for those under 26 years of age will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7994/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

In line with other EU and OECD jurisdictions, age related reduced jobseeker’s allowance (JA) payments for young unemployed people were introduced on a phased basis to tackle high youth unemployment.  Receiving the maximum rate of JA without a strong financial incentive to engage in education or training can lead to long-term welfare dependency from a young age.

Under Pathways to Work 2016-2020, the Department committed to review and report on the impact of the reduced rates for JA recipients aged 18 to 25. 

The National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM) has undertaken research which examined the effectiveness of the reduced rates in encouraging young jobseekers to avail of education, training and employment. 

 My Department has not commissioned this research, rather, it has allowed the NUIM access to the data from the Jobseeker’s Longitudinal Database to undertake this research.  The University examined data for 18 and 19 year olds, the reduced rates were first introduced for this cohort.

The NUIM published its findings in December 2018 which found positive results noting a significant reduction in unemployment durations. 

My Department's officials recently met with the authors of the NUIM publication and are in the process of examining their detailed findings which be used as an input into the Department's review which will be a stand alone report examining the impact of the reduced rates.  I expect that the Department's report will be completed shortly.

State Pension (Contributory) Data

Ceisteanna (88, 107)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

88. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons that carried out their post-2012 contributory pension reviews online; the number that commenced an online review but did not complete the process in County Cork; the steps she plans to take to address this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8090/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

107. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons that requested paper forms for their post-2012 contributory pension review; the completion rate for paper reviews; the number that did not respond to review correspondence in County Cork; the steps she plans to take to address the issue of non-correspondence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8091/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 and 107 together.

Since the end of September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of pensioners born on or after 1 September 1946 who were awarded state pension (contributory) on reduced 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.  My Department has already written to these pensioners to explain the process.

Where possible, my Department will use information already held to assist in these reviews.  In some cases additional information is required to complete their review.  Over recent weeks, around 24,000 requests for additional information have been sent to pensioners about unexplained gaps in their social insurance record.  These information requests also explain how to access my Department’s online service to provide the required information.  The information request letter also provides a dedicated telephone number to support and assist pensioners who have difficulty in completing their online application.  Over 4,800 online applications have been received.     

Importantly, regardless of when a person’s review is processed, if they are due an increase their weekly rate will be adjusted without delay and arrears paid, backdated to 30 March 2018, or the person’s 66th birthday if later.  If they are not due an increase, they will remain on their existing rate of payment.  No one will be worse off as a result of this review. 

As information requests have only recently issued to pensioners and we await replies from them it is too early to provide the detailed statistics to the Deputy requested at this time.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (89, 99)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

89. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the progress made to date with the introduction of the new TCA method of assessment for the State pension (contributory) for persons who became eligible for a pension since September 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8089/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

99. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when she expects the first reviews of reduced contributory pensions to be completed; if revised amounts will issue as soon as individual reviews are completed; when backdated amounts will issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8068/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 99 together.

Since late September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of around 90,000 pensioners, born on or after 1 September 1946, who have a reduced rate State pension contributory entitlement.  

In Quarter 4 2018, Information letters issued to those included in the review to explain the review process.  Where possible, my Department will use information already held to assist in the reviews.  In some, but not all, cases additional information is required from pensioners about unexplained gaps in their social insurance record to complete their review.   

Where possible, my Department will use information already held to assist in these reviews.  Additional information will be requested in writing from pensioners in relation to unexplained gaps in their social insurance record where required to complete their review.  

Last month, almost 24,000 requests for additional information were issued to pensioners.  These requests includes details on how to return the required information using the Department’s online services and also provides a dedicated telephone number to call if people had difficulty using the online application.  Details of those who called have been recorded so that paper applications could be issued to them.  Paper applications have began issuing this week to these pensioners.

As the required legislative and system changes are now in place, I am pleased to let the Deputies know that the first reviews have been processed this week.  Where an increase is awarded, the rate of payment will be adjusted without delay and backdated to 30 March  2018 or the person's 66th birthday if later.  Where a pension rate  does not increase as a result of this review, the person will continue to receive their existing rate of payment.  No one will be worse off as a result of this review. 

Given the numbers involved, it will take my Department a number of months to complete the reviews.  I can assure the Deputies that reviews will continue to be processed until all identified pensioners receive their review outcome in writing. 

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputies.

Paternity Benefit

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 53.

Ceisteanna (90)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

90. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons that availed of paternity benefit since its introduction in September 2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8101/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The information requested by the Deputy is detailed in the following tabular statement.

Paternity Benefit may be taken by fathers at any time in the six months following the birth or adoption of their child.  Following the scheme's introduction in September 2016, many fathers who could have claimed the benefit in the last four months of 2016 claimed it instead in 2017.

This means that, in the four months from September to December 2016, about 46 Paternity Benefit claims were made for every 100 Maternity Benefit claims.  In the year 2017, this rose to 62 Paternity Benefit claims for every 100 Maternity Benefit claims, as fathers of children born in both late 2016 and 2017 took up their entitlements. 

In the year 2018, the uptake ratio stabilised at 57 Paternity Benefit claims for every 100 Maternity Benefit claims.

I note that this delayed uptake pattern in the first year of the new scheme's operation explains the slight fall in the total number of Paternity Benefit claims awarded from 2017 to 2018.

Year 

Paternity Benefit Claims Awarded 

 2016

 5,013

 2017

 26,559

 2018

 24,080

 

 

 Total

 55,652

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 53.