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Illness Benefit Waiting Times

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 7 November 2018

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Questions (175)

Martin Heydon


175. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the delays in processing new and existing illness benefit claims; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46127/18]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Overall payment levels of Illness Benefit (IB) are now at their normal level. For information, in any one week, circa 50,000 customers are entitled to an IB payment. Last week, circa 54,000 customer payments were made, approximately 4,000 payments in excess of the normal level, and this includes some customers due arrears. For any customers with arrears outstanding, the Department would like to assure them that they will receive their back payments as soon as possible.

The Department can confirm that a normal level of payments will issue to IB customers this week. It is, however, important to note that there will always be some people who do not get paid in any given week. This is due to issues such as delays in receipt of claims and certificates, incorrectly completed certificates, human error, inconsistencies between the information submitted and the information already on file, the existence of another welfare payment for the main claimant or their dependants on the claim, all of which can lead to payments being suspended or delayed. This was always the case.

However, the Department acknowledges that the majority of the delays over the past few weeks were due to system and processing issues rather than normal levels of exceptions and would like to again apologise to the customers affected.

In August, the IB scheme migrated from an old legacy IT system approaching its end-of-life to a more up-to-date system already successfully used for many of the Department’s other payments. As part of this process, IB payments transitioned from a payment in arrears to a real-time payment model. This model was designed to provide quicker access to payments for customers and also to greatly reduce the manual processing work involved in administering IB claims. Unfortunately, although the majority of customers continued to receive payments, there were a number of unanticipated difficulties and some IB customers’ payments were adversely affected with delays and missed payments.

The Department would like to sincerely apologise for the difficulties and frustration experienced by customers who did not receive the correct IB payment or who experienced delays in their payments. The Department has been working hard over the past few weeks, and is continuing to work, to resolve any outstanding issues - allocating additional staff to IB claim work and developing a number of IT modifications to identify and rectify payment issues.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.