Tuesday, 23 August 2016 19:08

Waiting to retire

Getting social security benefits of any kind requires some paper work and yes, some time. In the case of pension payments the waiting period for that first payment can be a long one, especially if the applicant has worked abroad.

As one reader explains in an interview with the Cyprus Weekly, there is no way of determining when that first payment may actually arrive – two months, three months, more? It turns out that for people having worked abroad the wait for that first pension payment may be two years or even more, as particular European regulations have to be followed.

According to the applicant, the most unnerving thing is that no timeline whatsoever can be provided, making the planning of any family finances very difficult. She had applied for her father’s retirement benefits in October 2015. Three months later, they received a letter saying the application had been received and that UK authorities would be contacted for additional information as the applicant had worked abroad. The letter made it clear that this would be a lengthy process.

Since then, several enquiries had been made with the Social Insurance Department.

Each time the answer was that ‘it takes time’ and that they were still waiting for information from the UK (according to their system).

An inquiry in the UK showed that the required information had been sent to Cyprus in January 2016.

“Only once my specific details were taken and I was called back by the relevant department in April,” relates the applicant. “I was told that the information from the UK had been received and that the application was in queue to be examined.”

When checking in June, 8 months after the application, the reply was once again that the department was still waiting for information from the UK.

Only after insisting that this wasn’t the case, the applicant was told it could still take up to two years for the application to be processed since that person had worked abroad.

Long delays caused by under-staffing

In an interview with the Cyprus Weekly, Theofanis Tryfonos, Director of the Social Insurance Services at the Ministry of Labour, said that they were aware of extremely long delays in pension payments, especially for individuals having worked abroad. Receiving the required information can take up to two years, especially when dealing with Greece.

“We do send reminders to speed things up, but they are generally slow,” explained the director. For those having worked only in Cyprus, the wait is generally three to four months, depending on the number of applications received at the office.

“The main problem is that we are greatly understaffed,” adds Tryfonos. “We are working with fewer people than before the crisis to deal with its consequences which are a tripled number of applications for unemployment benefits.”

More staff to be recruited

The department is waiting to recruit more than 25 staff members. However, there are over 7,000 applicants who have to be screened via a written exam, which is being organised by the Public Service Commission and assisted by the Ministry of Education.

The procedure might finish in early 2017. Meanwhile, staff members are working overtime, many coming to the office on weekends to deal with the backlog of the various applications.

“The application process does need to be re-engineered and we are hoping to improve things with more staff,” concludes Theofanis Tryfonos.

Article as published in The Cyprus Weekly of August 19th 2016 


Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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