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Efforts being made to resolve illness benefit payment delays, says minister

TDs said constituents have been in touch about the delay or cessation of customer payments since the new system kicked in.

Image: Shutterstock/Andriy Solovyov

EVERY EFFORT IS being made to resolve problems that have arisen with the new automated system for Illness Benefit.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan faced a number of questions from TDs today about the delay or cessation of customer payments since the new system kicked in.

In August, there were similar problems reported, with people receiving illness benefit from the State waiting weeks for payments, which resulted in financial problems for many as they face rent payments and back-to-school costs.

At the time, the department said the problem arose because some GPs were continuing to use old medical claim forms despite a system change over at the start of the month.

However, some two months on delays are still occurring.

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, John Brady said many of his constituents have had their payments stopped after the new automated system failed to record receipt of forms sent in by recipients.

“The forms concerned are the medical review forms (MR1 forms) which are issued by the Department and must be filled in and returned by recipients within 21 days. Recipients who received the form, filled it in and returned it well before the 21 day deadline have had their payments stopped by the automated system,” he said.

However, he said the new computer system sends out the MR1 forms automatically and in some cases the forms have been sent out to the same individual as many as six times.

Fianna Fáil’s Social Protection spokesperson Willie O’Dea said the Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty told him a number of weeks ago that the situation is under control.

“It hasn’t returned to normal – it has got far worse,” he said, adding that a number of senior officials within the department have spoken of their frustration with the slow pace of progress.

Michael Moynihan said the whole system appears to have “ground to a halt”.

A number of his constituents have been left with no payments, he said, adding that they are being told to present to the local social welfare officer for money.

“People are being left without money,” he said.

He said that no information is being passed on to customers. All TDs speaking about the problem said the phone lines in the Illness Benefit Section seem to be closed, as no one can get through to get answers as to what is happening.

Flanagan said he wanted to reassure deputies today that the old forms will still be accepted.

He said discussions are ongoing in relation to the roll out of the new software systems.

“I regret there is something of a delay with the transition period. Every effort is being made to resolve the situation,” said Flanagan. 

A recent statement from the Department of Social Protection said: 

The department is aware that some Illness Benefit customers are experiencing lower than expected payments this week. However, all customers have received payments in line with the illness certificates presented.
The department is examining these cases and we expect any payment issues to be resolved over the next week.

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