My Department is required to operate within a staff ceiling figure and a commensurate administrative staffing budget, which for this Department has involved reductions in staff.
The staffing needs for all areas within the Department are continuously reviewed, taking account of workloads, management priorities and the ongoing need to respond to new and changing demands in a wide range of services. This is to ensure that the best use is made of all available resources with a view to providing an efficient service to those who rely on the schemes operated by the Department.
There has been a significant turnover of staff in the Appeals Office in recent years due in the main to staff retirements. The filling of these posts is a priority for my Department. I have also arranged for a number of additional posts to be assigned to that office to deal with the claim load.
Given the complexity of the appeals process it takes some time for new staff to be trained up and develop expertise and this has led to somewhat longer processing times during this period. The Chief Appeals Officer has advised me that appeal processing times will continue to be a priority for her office.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.