Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, has slammed Minister Doherty and her Department over letters issued by them to over 60,000 State Pensioners regarding their entitlements and said the correspondence was terrifying the recipients.

The Sinn Féin TD revealed the letters are being sent to 60,635 people in receipt of a Qualified Adult Increase on their State Pension Contributory payment as part of a review being carried out by the Department. This increase is paid in respect of a pensioner’s spouse/civil partner/co-habitant where they meet the necessary means tested criteria.

Teachta Seán Crowe said:

“My constituency office was contacted by a senior citizen terrified about losing the legitimate payment he currently receives as part of his State Pension in respect of his wife through the Qualified Adult payment.

“He, along with over 60,000 older people, are receiving letters from the Department’s Control Unit asking them to confirm that the information they gave the Department was truthful by signing a declaration. This must be returned to the relevant Section within 21 days.

“The declaration also states that the undersigned understands that if they provide misleading or untruthful information, they will be required to repay this or be prosecuted.

“Many people who have received the letter are unsure what it means and they are terrified that they will lose their entitlements.

“The Department are now stating that ‘flexibility can be provided if there is difficulty in replying within the requested timeframe.’ Unfortunately, this is a reassurance they failed to give to the pensioners receiving the letter.

“These letters should have included an absolute assurance to the persons receiving it that there would be flexibility for them, if they needed it. They also should have included the rationale as to why these letters were being issued in the first place.

“The Department’s latest approach is terrifying many senior citizens, creating doubt and needless worry to thousands of recipients.

“This is not the first time that the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection have been criticised for the manner in which they communicate with recipients of social welfare supports. They need to learn how to do this better.”