Individual cases will obviously vary based on the information that individuals provide. All I can do, when I report the numbers, is report the average time.
It bothers me to learn from Deputy Collins that average waiting times appear to be increasing because the statistics indicate that the additional resources we have put into the carer's section are yielding results. Not long ago, I was in this Chamber apologising because at one point carer's allowance applicants were waiting 17 weeks on average. That meant the best outcome for an applicant was to wait for 17 weeks. God love those who could have been waiting much longer. The average waiting time for processing disability allowance applications is ten weeks. For carer's allowance, the average is ten weeks. For domiciliary care allowance, it is between ten and 12 weeks. The reason for the decrease is that, arising from efficiencies in other sections, we added extra staff with expertise to the division.
That is the plan. Without being smart, we knew that the carer's application form was a bit cumbersome. We spent a year working with Family Carers Ireland to do exactly what we did with the domiciliary care allowance application a number of years ago working with DCA Warriors. People tend to engage better and provide more information when the application process is made more streamlined. While this process and the additional staff we have provided significantly improved turnaround times, we still experience cases of applicants holding back information they think they will need for an appeal. The result is that the ten or 12 week process starts all over again because the application must go to the bottom of the new deciding officer's list. That is frustrating for me. Instead of having an applications that have been rejected because they are not complete going to appeal and the process starting all over again, I have considered having a review process somewhere in the middle. However, that would create another pile. Without wishing to sound snarky, everybody should give us all of the information they can in the first instance. We do not have a policy of refusing applications in the first instance and dealing only with applicants who come back a second time. We are here to support people in their times of need and to ensure they have an income when they are doing things that stop them from otherwise having an income. In those cases, the answer is "Yes" but we can only say "Yes" to an applicant when he or she gives us all the information that is needed.