Written answers

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Department of Social Protection

Social Welfare Benefits

9:00 pm

Photo of Sandra McLellanSandra McLellan (Cork East, Sinn Fein)
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Question 377: To ask the Minister for Social Protection when a carer’s allowance application will be approved and processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9742/12]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application from the person concerned for an increase in her carer’s allowance in respect of a second care recipient. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspect of her claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Photo of Sandra McLellanSandra McLellan (Cork East, Sinn Fein)
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Question 378: To ask the Minister for Social Protection her views on whether 13.5 weeks is an acceptable time to be waiting without a decision being made on a carer’s allowance application. [9743/12]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The average time taken to award an application in the quarter ended September 2011 was 17 weeks. Figures for the last quarter of 2011 are unavailable as, due to the introduction of a new claims processing system in the carer’s allowance area, new claims are being processed on the new system while older claims are still being processed on the old system. Figures for processing times in January 2012 on the new system will be available shortly.

In order to meet the challenge of increased volumes of new claims for its schemes, the Department has embarked on a major programme of process redesign and modernisation, including the deployment of new computer systems. This new processing system is being introduced for the carer’s allowance scheme. The first tranche of new carer’s allowance claims began to be processed under the new system in August 2011. It is anticipated that the new system will introduce significant processing efficiencies and a quicker and more responsive service to the customer. Accordingly, the project is being given high priority and involves a significant level of time and commitment from the relevant staff in the Department. This has had a short-term negative impact on claim processing times which is expected to continue until the completion of the modernisation project in June of this year when all existing carer’s allowance claims will be transferred onto the new processing system.

Some 7,698 applications are registered as awaiting a decision at present, down from 8,540 at the beginning of September 2011. I acknowledge that the time taken to process carer’s allowance claims at present is not satisfactory but I am satisfied that the Department is taking appropriate steps to resolve the situation. In addition to dealing with the approximately 330 new carer’s allowance applications that are received each week, overtime working is being applied to help reduce backlogs that have built up. However, it is expected to be a significant number of months before the backlog is reduced to an acceptable level.

While the new systems and processes will facilitate a significant improvement in overall processing times, it should be noted that individual claims may continue to take some time to process. Delays can also arise if those applying for the allowance are not in a position to supply all the necessary information in support of their claim.

In the meantime, if a person’s means are insufficient to meet his or her needs while awaiting a decision on a claim, he or she can apply for a means tested supplementary welfare allowance payment from their local community welfare officer.

Photo of Sandra McLellanSandra McLellan (Cork East, Sinn Fein)
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Question 379: To ask the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on a carer’s allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9744/12]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The person concerned was refused an increase in her carers allowance in respect of a second care recipient on the ground that, based upon the medical evidence provided, the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. On 16 January 2012 she was notified of this decision and the reason for it. Additional medical evidence has subsequently been received and will be reviewed by a medical assessor. She will be notified directly of the outcome of the review in due course.

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