Applicants for minimum guaranteed income are sometimes subjected to delays and impersonal treatment from the government department responsible for welfare payments, Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottides has found.

In a report published by the Cyprus News Agency late on Monday following complaints of delays, Lottides said that applicants are often not informed by the service about any possible gaps in their applications until after considerable time has elapsed.

She highlighted examples where because of the time between the date the application was submitted and its examination, applicants had to produce updated versions of documents they had already sent.

In several cases, complainants who have contacted her office were asked to present documents they had already submitted after they were told that these had been lost or that they had not received the letters sent by the service asking for additional data, she added.

Lottides noted that under the law, applications are considered properly completed if the requested information is given when they are submitted. Should they be approved, payment of the minimum guaranteed income starts from the next month of the date on which the application was completed and not the next month from the date it was initially submitted.

Because of the procedures that are implemented, applicants who in the majority of cases rely on the allowance to secure the minimum level of dignified survival, are obliged to wait for months, she added.

And should their application be rejected and they file an objection for a re-examination, the wait may grow disproportionately, she added.

“The financial difficulties that they face during this period is incomprehensible, while in cases where their application is approved, they rely on retroactive payments to be able to cover the debts they have amassed,” she said.

This inconvenience is not the fault of the applicants but created by the time needed for the service to examine the formal validity of the application, she noted.

Even though the department handles social welfare allowances and is therefore called to evaluate people needing social and economic assistance, it also remains an ‘impersonal’ service offering no personal contact between applicants and the relevant official.

Communication between applicants and the department is exceptionally difficult. Applicants cannot meet the officials handling their applications, deliver the documents in person and receive a receipt, nor are they informed by telephone on possible deficiencies in their applications or how the examination process is progressing.

However, Lottides expressed satisfaction that following a complaint, the telephone centre of the department, which had been staffed with 10 people from March 1, had another four joining them from April 2.