Dáil Éireann - Volume 556 - 24 October, 2002
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Applications.
Mr. Crawford Mr. Crawford
22. Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has satisfied herself that her Department has sufficient personnel to deal with social welfare applications in a reasonable time span; the time delay for the different applications such as widow and widower pensions, farm assist and old age pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19382/02]
Mr. McGinley Mr. McGinley
29. Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason it takes three to four months to process an application for the old age contributory pension. [19531/02]
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan)
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 29 together.
The level of staffing in each of my Department's offices is reviewed on a regular basis and adjusted, as far as possible and, as appropriate, to reflect the changing demands which arise from increased claim loads, changes to scheme conditions and other factors.
These reviews involve the comprehensive measurement of workloads in each office and the identification of the staff resources required to handle this work. A further analysis of requirements is well advanced and it is due for completion shortly. Readjustments will be made to staff numbers, if appropriate, following this review.
In the case of the schemes to which the Deputy refers, the average processing times, in weeks, for these applications at present are as follows: old age contributory pension, ten weeks; old age non-contributory pension, eight weeks; widow's non – contributory pension, five weeks; widow's contributory pension, four weeks; and farm assist, four weeks.
These figures relate to the elapsed time from the date the initial claim is made until the date on which a decision on entitlement is given. In cases where a means test is required, a certain level of delay is unavoidable. Furthermore, in some cases significant delays are caused by the necessary inquiries into the circumstances of claimants for certain schemes or in verifying the insurance record of claimants for insurance based payments, particularly pensions. Factors outside the Department's control can impinge on the time taken to make a decision in any case. These factors include delays in claimants supplying necessary documentation or in securing key information from other agencies, including agencies abroad.
It should also be borne in mind that many applications for pensions and allowances are made in advance of eligibility commencing and that, even though there is apparent delay, payment may be awarded well in advance of the relevant event. For example, 85% of claims for old age contributory pension were awarded before pension age where the claim was received one month before pension age.
In addition, many applicants for payments are already in receipt of another social welfare payment which normally continues until entitlement to pension or allowance is determined. The clearance times achieved are an indication of performance in a given period having regard to all of the factors affecting entitlement. The overriding consideration is to ensure that customers receive their correct entitlement and decisions cannot be taken until all appropriate information is received. I am very conscious of the need to deliver a quality service to customers to preserve and build on the high reputation which my Department has for service to its customers.
Question No. 23 answered with Question No. 15.
Dáil Éireann 556 Written Answers. Social Welfare Applications.