No. We certainly will not. I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. My Department transferred the administration of the illness benefit, IB, scheme from a legacy IT platform to its newer core IT platform in August 2018. Although the system change has worked effectively for more than 80% of illness benefit customers, significant difficulties arose for a number of customers following the implementation. This was a matter of great concern and genuine regret to my Department and to all of the people in the illness benefit section.
My Department took three main steps to resolve the issues impacting on payments. First, it deployed additional staff to process work and respond to the customer enquiries, which were in the thousands. Second, it developed some new IT workarounds to address the payment gap issues and to ensure a faster flow-through of payments to illness benefit recipients. Third, we continue to review the design rules in the new system to afford greater flexibility in the processing of claims and certificates. I believe we have made good progress in this regard, with payment levels returned to and maintained at the expected norm of more than 50,000 customers paid each week for the past two months. Arrears payments have also been made to customers whose payments were delayed. Telephone helpline and call handling performance has also been addressed and is now, thankfully, back to normal levels.
Currently, people who are due a payment and whose certificates and claims are in order receive their payment entitlement promptly. It is important to note that there are always cases where a person makes an application and expects to receive a payment but the payment is legitimately stopped or paused for a variety of reasons.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
In addition, there will always be cases where errors are made that impact on payments to individual customers. While we endeavour to keep these to a minimum, it is inevitable that some errors will be made in an illness benefit scheme that processes more than 9,000 transactions per day. To ensure we learn from the lessons of the transition of the IB system onto a new platform, I have arranged for an independent review into how the changes to IB were planned, implemented and - importantly - communicated to customers. I expect this work to be completed early in 2019. Finally, I sincerely apologise again for the difficulties and burden experienced by customers earlier this year and believe the action taken to address these issues has worked and is continuing to work to ensure customers receive a good standard of service.