Illness Benefit delays unacceptable
Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin has said the delays in processing illness benefit payments are unacceptable, and that the responsible Minister for Social Protection and her Department must ensure all those impacted are automatically given a payment, rather than having to go through the community welfare service.
Deputy Howlin raised the problem at Leader’s Questions where he highlighted that Labour representatives across the country have been inundated with queries from people deeply concerned at the failure to receive their illness benefit for weeks in some cases.
Deputy Howlin said:
“For weeks now, there has been a chaotic breakdown in the delivery of Illness Benefit by the Department of Employment and Social Protection. My colleagues in the Oireachtas and in local councils across the country have shared information with me about a succession of cases.
“People are being left for weeks with no payment and being referred to the community welfare service (CWS). But illness benefit is a social insurance payment while the CWS operates means tested payments, meaning many people who are sick or in recovery from operations are being left without an income.
“Just this morning in Wexford my office spoke with a woman who is awaiting an operation and who has no money to buy food. People have been given minimal payments instead of their full entitlement, with one case of a person being offered just €33 for two weeks. In another case, a women had to wait over 9 weeks for payment.
“There is a Social Protection helpline set up for Oireachtas members, but calls are not being effectively answered. This is causing further difficulties in our ability to respond to the needs of people who are waiting, day by day, to receive the money to which they are entitled.
“The whole situation needs urgent action. I understand that there are IT difficulties that led to delays processing forms that GPs send in to certify people as still unfit for work, but the Department has been very slow to respond.
“The bottom line is that people who are off work due to illness or injury are not receiving their social insurance entitlement to an Illness Benefit payment and this is leaving many people in a very difficult situation, while some longstanding recipients of Illness Benefit have had their payments suddenly stopped.
“Many people who depend solely on this payment have been and are being left with no money whatsoever for a number of weeks.
“This morning the Department have finally responded with a press release and an email to Oireachtas members, despite my colleague Sen. Ged Nash raising the problems publicly on Monday.
“However the solution put in place is not acceptable and we don’t know when the problem will be resolved. The Tánaiste couldn’t provide any real answers to my questions in the Dáil.
“I am calling on the Minister and her Department to ensure all those impacted receive their illness benefit payment without delay.”