The Department is genuinely committed to ensuring that claims for its schemes are processed as quickly as possible.
In April 2019 new claims for non-contributory State pension, carer's allowance, carer's benefit and domiciliary care allowance schemes were processed within their respective target timeframes. Depending on the scheme, targets for awarding claims are set between ten and 12 weeks. Disability allowance claims took an average of 13 weeks to award, which is a week outside of our targeted timeframe.
There is more complexity attached to the processing of applications for the means-tested schemes. Schemes relying on medical evidence also require greater time to process than some of our other claims. In disability allowance claims, for example, in addition to providing evidence of habitual residence in the State and of the income and assets the applicants may hold, they must provide details of their medical conditions and the extent to which they restrict them from taking up employment. The information provided is then assessed by a qualified medical assessor, and this takes some time. In many cases, where a medical assessor deems that the person is not restricted in his or her capacity to take up work, the person concerned then submits additional information in the hope of supporting his or her claim. The time taken to receive and then assess this additional information is also reflected in our processing times. Likewise, for carer's allowance, details of the income and assets of the claimant, together with medical certification identifying the care needs of the person being cared for on a full-time basis, also need to be provided and assessed.
I reassure the Deputy that claim processing is kept under - I will not say "daily" - weekly review because not only is the matter raised here all the time by all parties and none, but it is also something to which we strive. No one wants to set out to frustrate people who are only coming to us because they have genuine needs or are at low periods in their lives or to make the process more difficult than it is. The reflections on how we are approaching our new carer's payment application - we have done extensive work with the Carers Association and other carers' representative bodies to try to make that application process simpler for those who apply - is only one of the small ways in which we are trying to improve the way we do things.