State admits fault in delay to pensioner payments

THE Government has admitted its lack of preparation before introducing a new pension payment system that consigned thousands of pensioners to a 14-week wait for their social welfare payments.

Officials confirmed there are still 7,400 contributory pension claims being processed, 3,280 of which are by the people over 66 who are no longer in employment.

The massive backlog has been caused by the Department of Social and Family Affairs replacing its 20-year-old PENLIVE computer system with a new, improved version.

It started changing the system in May but later admitted that the workload involved in transferring the system would take more than three-and-a-half months to clear.

Yesterday a department spokeswoman said: “In hindsight we should have been better prepared but we did not appreciate the number of applications we would receive. They built up much too fast.”

Minister for Social Affairs Seamus Brennan announced this week that every resource was needed to speed up the processing of claims and as a result a number of additional ‘experienced’ staff were being assigned to the task and other staff were working on overtime. However, that has been rejected as unsatisfactory by Age Action who have demanded the government issue an interim payment while the backlog is being resolved.

A spokesman said: “It is essential that the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the minister authorise interim payments to older people suffering because of the department’s failure.”

However, a department spokeswoman said such payments were not possible as all staff were concentrating on getting the full payments processed. She added that people could seek supplementary welfare allowance from their local community welfare officer.

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