My Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers, ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible.
Processing times vary across schemes, depending on the different qualification criteria. Schemes that require a high level of documentary evidence from the customer, particularly in the case of illness-related schemes, can take longer to process. Similarly, means-tested payments can also require more detailed investigation and interaction with the applicant, thereby lengthening the decision-making process. Delays can occur if a claim is submitted and all the necessary supporting documentation is not included. If information is required from social security organisations in other jurisdictions, this can also affect processing times.
To help my Department to make timely and fair decisions on applications, applicants should ensure that they complete the application forms fully, attaching all the supporting documentation required as per the checklist provided on the application forms. Applicants for illness-related schemes should provide, at the outset, all information they have in relation to medical conditions and the effect of those conditions on their capacity to work or their care needs.
I wish to reassure the Deputy that claim processing is kept under active review, with all possible steps taken to improve processing times and customer service. This includes the assignment of additional resources, where available, and the review of business processes, to ensure the efficient processing of applications. As indicated in a reply to a previous question a recent report from the Comptroller an Auditor General notes that the Department meets or exceeds performance standards on most of its schemes. Illness related schemes given their complexity create particular difficulties, however I am pleased to report that substantial improvements have been made in the processing of the disability /caring schemes in recent months and my department will continue to work to maintain and embed these improvements.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.