NIS pile-up

The National Insurance Scheme is backlogged with sickness benefit claims.

Barbados TODAY has learned that the backlog is resulting in scores of individuals waiting to receive their sickness benefit payments, some from as far back as November.

And while it is not clear how much longer those persons will have to wait, it is at this time uncertain if unemployment benefits will also be affected by this wait.

This development comes as thousands of people could soon be filing their claims as Government retrenchment continues.

Checks by this newspaper revealed that the department was experiencing “technical difficulties” which have resulted in the backlog.

When contacted, acting director of the NIS, Jennifer Hunte, referred the matter to the marketing and research department.

Dereck Lowe, senior research officer in that department, confirmed the Government agency was experiencing some technical difficulties but could not say how many benefit claims were affected.

Stressing that he did not have a full report at the moment and therefore could not give details regarding the technical problem, Lowe said he also could not give a definite period when he expected the matter to be resolved or if it would affect the thousands of expected unemployment benefit claims to reach the department soon.

He gave the assurance however, that the department had the required skills to deal with the demand.

“I can say we have a technical difficulty and we do have a technical team working on it,” said Lowe.

“I don’t have the full report in front of me so I can’t say exactly what time [it will be resolved]. I am now waiting to hear from the technical team to hear how soon they can resolve the issue.”

Asked if the technical issues could affect unemployment benefits Lowe said: “I cannot tell you now exactly if it is something that will affect unemployment . . . [but] we always make sure that we have adequate staff to handle any numbers that come to the unemployment bureau. So we should be okay”.

Other benefit expenditure items of the NIS include funeral grant, employment injury, old age contributory grant, pension invalidity grant, survivors grant/pension and non-contributory old age pension.

In the meantime, a check with chairman of the NIS, Justin Robinson, on the actuarial review of the department, which is two years overdue, revealed that it should be made available in about a month.

The last actuarial review of the department was done at the end of 2008. It should be carried out every three years. The last report said in 2008 some 127,000 people made contributions and at the end of the year 34,000 people were in receipt of pensions.

It noted that unemployment benefit payments for 2008 were higher than in 2007 and exceeded contributions. That report said: “While most benefit expenditure items were in line with recent trends, sickness benefit expenditure increased significantly in both 2007 and 2008. This was due to increases in the number of claims approved.”

Revenues stood at about $743.1 million for 2009.

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