Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (300)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

304 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection the current waiting time for an application for invalidity pension; the number of applicants currently waiting for same to be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34795/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

At the end of June 2012 there were 6928 Invalidity Pension (IP) claims registered and awaiting decision. Average time to award is currently 37 weeks, this includes the time taken to decide EU and bilateral cases which have a significantly longer processing time.

Since the introduction of the two year expiration of illness benefit there has been a significant increase in the number of IP claims received in the Department. A high percentage of these applicants are not suitable for the invalidity pension scheme as they are not assessed as being permanently incapable of work.

The processing time for individual IP claims may vary in accordance with their relative complexity in terms of the qualifying criteria. In addition, factors outside the Department's control can have an impact, for example, insufficient information received from claimants at time of application and delays in claimants furnishing the information requested.

This Department is continually reviewing its processes in an effort to improve processing times and customer service. Many improvements have already been introduced in IP section. These improvements include the introduction of a new IT platform under the Department's service delivery model project which has led to further efficiencies in processing and an increase in the number of claims processed. Additional temporary staff has been assigned to the IP area to help to reduce the backlog and waiting time. Overtime has been made available and is utilised on a judicious basis.

In June 2012, a business process improvement project was carried out which resulted in significant changes to the operations in the section. Staff have been reallocated from other duties to focus on claim processing, a phone bank has been introduced and processes have been streamlined to improve processing times. Already improvements are being experienced but it will be a number of months before the backlog is reduced to an acceptable level.

Customers waiting on a decision on their IP claim, who have urgent income support needs, can apply for the means tested supplementary welfare allowance (SWA).

Question No. 305 answered with Question No. 262.