Illness benefit payment delays unacceptable – Fórsa

Union says staff facing aggressive and abusive calls over delays

Fórsa trade union has called on management at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to take urgent action to resolve delays to illness benefit payments.

The payment delays are due to a dispute between GPs and the department over the use of new application forms.

Fórsa has said applicants are facing long delays when they call the department looking for information, due to the unusually high volume of calls to the illness benefit section caused by the dispute.

Fórsa official Des Fagan said the frustration of applicants was understandable. “Unfortunately this has led to our members being subject to aggressive and abusive calls.

“The department needs to act urgently. Fórsa has advised management at the Department that if the current situation continues we will exercise the option of a ballot for industrial action in order to protect our members.

“They are currently working very hard to meet the additional demands placed on them as a consequence of the dispute between GPs and the department,” he said.

Mr Fagan said the union met management last week (Friday 24th August) to discuss the issue. He said despite management commitments to publish newspaper advertising, provide training to staff and update the phone messaging system, nothing has been delivered.

“This means staff are continuing their efforts to respond to customers who are waiting up to 90 minutes for their calls to be answered. The department has failed to properly communicate the current difficulties to its service users,” he said.

The department has failed to properly communicate the current difficulties to its service users.

Mr Fagan said the department has prioritised responding to service user requests made via social media, over those making enquiries by phone, creating further delays for anyone unable to access social media.

“Our members are committed to providing a good service to the public but management is ignoring their concerns and allowing the unacceptable delays to continue,” he said.