Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Pensions Reform (Continued)
 Header Item State Pensions Payments

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 981 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 66 Next Page Last Page

Deputy John Brady: Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady We welcome any provision that will mean additional financial security for workers when they reach old age. That said, we have some concerns in regard to the Strawman that was published and we made a submission on that. To come to the crux of the issue, there is poor coverage and only one out of three employees have a private pension in the private sector. When we take into account the public service, it pushes that up to 47% but it is still very low. We know there are serious concerns in terms of pension charges and uncertainty around defined contribution and defined benefit schemes, all of which needs to be addressed. Auto-enrolment gives us an opportunity to address all of these issues but there are still key questions to be answered, which is why I asked for a timeframe. While there were over 100 written submissions and that is welcome, it is a low number, although I presume many of those were from organisations. When can we expect to see the next stage of the process?

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Deputy's submission is very welcome. The views he expressed in the submission were not unique and there are others who share his views, which will not surprise him. We both agree that 35% coverage is too low. Some 65% of people are not saving a single euro for when they get to 66 and we need to help them to make sure they have a better quality of life when they get to 66.

My ambition is to have a document brought to Cabinet before the July recess and, as it is April now, it is not that far away. I will try to do it as early as I possibly can so we can have considerable time to discuss the proposal. The Deputy might like 80% of it and not like 20%. However, I need to ensure we can all agree on the proposed system. As soon as the memo goes to Cabinet, I will bring it to the joint committee and we can have a conversation about it.

Deputy John Brady: Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady Hopefully, the Minister will publish that document and she has said she will furnish it to the joint committee. I look forward to seeing it and scrutinising it. The crucial elements are the contributions from the three sides - the employer, the employee and the State - and how this will be teased out and expanded upon. Obviously, from the perspective of my party, fund management is one of the key components. We have put forward proposals around the NTMA and the State playing a leading role in the management and investment of that money. It could be put to fantastic use within the State, whether in regard to housing or the green economy. I look forward to the document being brought forward. Is that a definite timeframe and is the Minister committed to bringing it to Cabinet before the summer recess?

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty That is my plan. Once the scheme is finalised, arising from the changes we will potentially make following the consultation process, I have no choice but to bring the memo to Cabinet as I do not have the authority to do these things off my own bat. We will bring the memo to Cabinet and I will get approval. If I get approval on the scheme as it is presented, that is when I will bring it to the joint committee. At the end of the day, this has to go through as legislation so it will have to go through pre-legislative scrutiny. It will obviously go through that robust analysis and people will either agree or not agree.

To touch on some of the specifics raised by the Deputy, I would like to see some of the ideas he has. Unfortunately, it may not be easy to design and direct money specifically to a particular area. As I said, I am not finished the deliberations yet and I will come back to the Deputy when it is ready.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The Minister said the Strawman proposals are not conclusive, which I accept. However, I notice Strawman does not advert at all to the possibility that the pension will be delivered other than by one of a small group of companies in the private sector. Strawman does not accept the possibility that it will be delivered through a public body.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I think I understand the question. The Strawman was designed to elicit conversation and discussion and it certainly has done that. There are a number of suggestions from the 100 written submissions that this should be entirely Government-run and that a Government agency be established. However, as I said, we will establish a preferred method based on all of the views that have been put to us with regard to what is the best and the most sustainable way of providing the assistance we want to provide.

State Pensions Payments

 12. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the timeframe for completion of the reviews being carried out into persons affected by the changes to the State pension (contributory) in 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15653/19]

 16. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if extra staff will be hired to ensure completion of the reviews of the cases of persons affected by the changes to the State pension (contributory) in 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15654/19]

 21. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty when all the cases will be examined under the review of pensioners entitlements which follows the introduction of a total contributions approach method for assessing pensioners that became eligible for the State pension after September 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15508/19]

Deputy Aindrias Moynihan: Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan The 2012 pension cut hit very hard because it reduced the weekly pension for many people. Six years on, the correction was very much needed. However, time is not on the side of the people who are losing out. Having their weekly payment corrected as soon as possible must be a priority, given there are 90,000 people losing out each week. How soon will those reviews be concluded so people can see that correction reflected in their weekly pension?

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I propose to take Questions Nos. 12, 16 and 21 together.

Since late September 2018, my Department has been planning and developing processes to review the social insurance records of approximately 90,000 pensioners born on or after 1 September 1946, who had a reduced rate State pension contributory entitlement based on post-budget 2012 rate bands.  These payments are being reviewed under the new total contributions 2012 model of pension calculation, which includes provision for home caring periods.

Reviews commenced on 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. As of 2 April 2019, 13,915 or 15% of reviews have been completed. Of these, 10,398 or 75% have 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 exactly the same payment as heretofore.

As I stated at the outset, it will take a number of months to complete all 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 36,900 requests for information have been sent out to pensioners. In order to process these reviews, 121 temporary staff have been recruited and trained and are now in our sections in Sligo and Donegal and it is planned to recruit a further eight staff this month. Based on experience to date, it is anticipated that it could take up to the end of September to complete all reviews.

What I have said previously and will repeat is that if we send out information requests to people and they do not reply to us, I have no intention of closing off the reviews. We will keep going and keep sending out reminders until every single one of the 90,000 people who were adversely affected by the rate band changes from 2012 have an opportunity to go through their file with one of our 121 staff to make sure they get what they are entitled to and any back payment they are due.

Deputy Aindrias Moynihan: Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan The figures suggest there are 90,000 people affected and there has been a staff increase of 120. Given some 1,200 to 1,300 cases are being processed per week, this suggests the 90,000 could take a year or a year and a half to process. Time is not on the side of these people. Is the Minister satisfied the Department has enough staff on that force to deal with this? It initially started off with 60 staff, increased to 70 last year, then to 100 and the Minister is now talking about 120. Has she underestimated the workload involved? Is she satisfied there are enough staff?

Is the 90,000 figure only for people on the contributory pension? There is also a cohort of people who chose to take the non-contributory pension because it paid them better than the contributory. Are they included in the 90,000 or is that figure an underestimation? Is the Minister's target realistic?

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív In selecting the people for early examination, was priority given to those cases where there was likely to be an increase in the pension following the review?

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Nobody was prioritised. Letters were sent out randomly and nobody was particularly selected because of their age, the length of time or anything like that.


Last Updated: 16/06/2020 13:47:08 First Page Previous Page Page of 66 Next Page Last Page