There has been an increase in claims for Illness Benefit in January. This trend reflects the annual increase at this time of year due to seasonal illnesses.
The transfer of the administration of the illness benefit scheme to the Department’s core business objects platform in 2018 saw significant difficulties arise for a large number of people following implementation. The additional resources deployed at the time to process work and respond to enquiries continue to work on Illness Benefit processing. Design rules have been reviewed to afford greater flexibility in processing of claims and certificates. Payment levels are being maintained at the expected norm for the past number of months. People who are due a payment and whose medical certification is in order continue to receive their payment entitlement promptly. In stating this it is important to note that there are always cases, where people's payments are legitimately stopped, paused, or delayed for a variety of reasons, including the late submission of medical certificates.
Telephone helpline and call handling performance has also been addressed and is now back to normal levels.
The Community Welfare Service is available to support people who apply for or experience issues in relation to their Illness Benefit and face financial difficulties. They may call into or contact their Intreo Centre where Community Welfare Service staff assisted them as necessary.
The Department would like to sincerely apologise for the difficulties experienced by customers in the latter part of last year and believe the action taken to address these have worked and we will continue to work to ensure customers receive a high standard of service.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.