Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (305)

Ciara Conway

Question:

309 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to use the investigating experience and decision making powers of the community welfare officers to ensure that all claims will be processed in a timely manner; the reason they must wait 20 weeks for a decision for a family income supplement where a person leaves the register to work full time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34819/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The purpose of the transfer of Community Welfare Service and staff to the Department from the HSE last October, was to provide a streamlined, consistent and enhanced service to the customer. The process of integration is ongoing and significant progress has already been made with preparations for an integrated service almost complete in four offices and ten further offices due to be developed before the end of the year. However, the assignment and integration of functions, and full transformation and integration of staff and skills is a programme of work which will take a number of years to complete.

The Department fully recognises the skills, competencies and experience of former CWOs. One of the projects underway as part of the transformation programme is to conduct an audit of skills and competencies so that the organisation can maximise its resources to meet requirements and address skill gaps and overlaps where they exist.

With regard to Family Income Supplement (FIS), the average waiting time for new family income supplement (FIS) claims at the end of June was 19 weeks. At the end of June, there were approximately 6,686 new FIS applications and approximately 7,811 renewal applications awaiting decision. The volume of FIS claims on hands and the delays in processing are a consequence of continued strong claim intake.

The Department has introduced a number of measures to address the efficiency of claim processing for FIS in light of the current waiting times, including the assignment of temporary staff and the facility to assign overtime working where appropriate. It is intended to commence in the near future a comprehensive business process improvement initiative in the FIS area, the focus of which will be to optimise performance and provide improved customer service.

The position is being closely monitored and kept under review by the Department.