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Online system to speed up processing of benefits

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Labour minister Zeta Emilianides

A fully automated system to come online perhaps by the end of the year will address the problem of the long delays in the processing and disbursement of benefits, Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou said on Tuesday.

Speaking in parliament, Emilianidou acknowledged the slow pace at which benefits applications get processed.

MPs harangued the government for promising since 2017 to fix the problem but failing to deliver.

Chairman of the House labour committee Andreas Kafkalias asked government officials to imagine themselves as pensioners who have to get by paycheque to paycheque.

In many instances – such as for sickness or unemployment benefits – it takes anywhere from four to eight months for applicants to receive the funds. With pensions, it can take more than a year.

The Department of Social Insurance Services receives some 240,000 benefits applications a year.

According to Emilianidou, the switch to automation will save a great deal of time. Currently, when incomplete paperwork is filed, it goes back and forth, dragging out the process.

But under the new electronic system envisioned, incomplete applications will simply not go through – so applicants will have no option but to get it right.

Emilianidou sounded confident about the transition to automated processing and payments. She cited the example of pandemic-related relief where funds were paid into the bank accounts of some 200,000 people – in many cases within 10 days of filing an application.

For his part, Deputy minister for Research, Innovation and Digital Policy Kyriacos Kokkinos said the civil service in general has fallen behind the times – using IT systems dating back to the 1990s and even the 1980s.

The government’s e-reform project would take at least two years, he added. In this, they are being advised by experts from the UK and Germany.

Regarding the labour department specifically, Kokkinos called it his ministry’s “biggest client” in terms of the volume of transactions performed.

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