Oireachtas Report: Apology for confusion over benefit scheme forms

Tim Ryan

Reporter:

Tim Ryan

Oireachtas Report: Apology for confusion over benefit scheme forms

Deputy Willie O'Dea has questioned the changes made to medical certificate forms for use in the illness and injury benefit schemes

THE reasons why changes have been made to the medical certificate forms for use in the illness and injury benefit schemes were queried in the Dáil by Limerick Fianna Fáil Deputy Willie O’Dea.

“As the Minister will be aware, a problem was created by the Department with regard to people applying for illness benefit, which caused a great deal of anxiety and stress for those people, not to mention the people expected to adjudicate on them, namely, the medical profession,” he said.

“My information is that the prescribing GP simply got all these new forms with a whole lot of different information and different questions from what had hitherto been the case and was simply told to get on with it without any consultation or discussion. I think the Minister has accepted that this is not a proper way to do business.”

In response, the Minister for Employment Affairs & Social Protection Regina Doherty said her Department recently introduced redesigned claim and medical certificate forms for use in the illness and injury benefit schemes.

“The purpose of the redesign was to facilitate a new process within the Department whereby forms would be scanned rather than manually keyed into the new IT system,” she said.

“Claims received on the new forms and certificates are being processed into the payment system on the same day as they are received. That is a significant improvement on behalf of our clients.

“The introduction of the redesigned form was discussed with the Irish Medical Organisation, IMO, in advance.

“The IMO advised its members, one month before its introduction, that they should co-operate with the use of the new forms.”

The Department subsequently communicated directly with general practitioners, GPs, shortly before the introduction of the redesigned forms, she said.

“Given the confusion that has arisen over the last couple of months, we have to accept that we should probably have communicated directly with the GPs more quickly than we did. We accept that and we apologise.”

Benefits of new Limerick app highlighted by senator

The benefits of a new app which deals with apprenticeships and was designed in Limerick was highlight in the Seanad by Senator Maria Byrne.

“The app deals with apprenticeships and informs students about what is available,” she said.

“These apprenticeships can be anything from two to four years' duration and involve work-based learning. The app provides a connection between the employer and the student and provides information on the range of apprenticeships. Ireland and the Department of Education and Skills are striving to double the number of apprenticeships over the next years. Many of them are now recognised by third level colleges so the students end up with a degree.”

This is a very important app, said the Senator. “It was designed by Appiercom, led by Declan Hayes and his team. I pay tribute to them because they put an awful lot of work into it. The app makes much information available to those who download it onto their phones.”

Insurance policyholder being thrown to the wolves by the Government

Huge disappointment with the slow pace of reform in insurance fraud claims was expressed in the Dáil by Sinn Fein Deputy Maurice Quinlivan.

As a result, he said policyholders have been “thrown to the wolves” by the Government.

“Over many years, the cost of public liability insurance has been a consistent problem,” he said.

“Not alone does it affect small and medium-sized businesses, pubs and other local sites of social activities throughout Ireland, in particular rural Ireland, but it also affects things like children's playgrounds, GAA social club centres and taxi drivers.

It has the effect of closing down many small enterprises, with the consequence that people become unemployed. Businesses are being bled dry by outrageous increases in insurance premiums, which are forcing some low-margin enterprises out of business.”

Signage needed for greenway, says Neville

The need for signage to highlight the Great Southern Greenway in Co Limerick on the N21 was raised in the Dáil by Fine Gael Deputy Tom Neville.

“Applications have been made to Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, for signage on the N21, and I am asking that this be prioritised so that decent signage can be placed on that road,” he said.

“We hear of the Waterford Greenway, among others, but there is also a fantastic greenway in County Limerick, said Deputy Neville.

“Applications have been made to resurface that greenway, but we need signage on the N21 - the Dublin to Killarney route - to let people know they can stop at Rathkeale and towns along the greenway and to ensure they make use of Limerick's tourism offering.”

In reply, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was on that greenway when he was Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport some years ago, and he would certainly ensure that his office passes on his concerns about signage to TII.

“There are rules about how many people must use a facility before it is brown-signed,” said the taoiseach, adding “but I will certainly make the authority aware that the Deputy has raised this issue and has made this proposal.”