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.
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, which allows the increased payments to be made. As of 28 March 2019, 11,646 of reviews have been completed. Of these, over 8,850 resulted in an increase in payment for the pensioners concerned. The pensioners who did not qualify for an increase in payments will continue to receive their existing weekly rate.
I have stated from the outset that it will take a number of months to complete all of the reviews due to the numbers involved and the individual nature of social insurance records. In some cases it is necessary to engage in correspondence with the pensioner in order to clarify periods of caring, work and contribution histories. To date, over 34,000 requests for information have issued to pensioners. In order to process these reviews one hundred and twenty one (121) temporary staff have been recruited to the Departments offices in the north- west.
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.
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.