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 / caring-related schemes, can take longer to process. Means-tested payments also require more detailed investigation and possible interaction with the applicant, thereby lengthening the decision making process.
I wish to reassure the Deputy that claim processing is kept under active review, with particular attention focused on Carers Allowance. This included, since September, the assignment of additional staff to assist with processing new applications for Carers Allowance, coupled with the implementation of a new business process. We have also increased the complement of medical assessors. Although there is much work still to be done these steps are now yielding results and have had a positive outcome in reducing claim processing times.
The time taken to process Carers Allowance (CA) applications has reduced over recent months. During October the average time taken to award a CA claim was 10 weeks this compares with an average of 17 weeks in 2018 and is the lowest level in 10 years. I understand that 10 weeks may still seem a long period to decide a claim however the complexity of the scheme, which is dependent on multiple conditionalities across two beneficiaries - the carer and the person in receipt of care - is such that these types of claim will always take longer to decide. Nevertheless we will continue our efforts to further improve the service.
I can assure the Deputy of my Department's commitment to providing a quality service to all its customers.