287. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice if there are guidelines, written procedures or protocols or key performance indicators for acknowledgement of correspondence received and response to correspondence received, respectively by category of correspondence (details supplied) in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38246/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is committed to delivering high quality customer service to all of our customers, including members of the public, elected representatives and stakeholders, and my officials aim to interact with our customers in a manner that is accessible, efficient, empathetic and fair at all times.
My officials endeavour to acknowledge all correspondence received within approximately 5 working days and to issue a reply within approximately 20 working days. Where it is not possible to issue a full response within 20 working days, my officials aim to issue an interim reply advising the correspondent of the delay and when a response is likely to be issued. These proposed deadlines apply to all correspondence received, whether solicited or unsolicited.
Unfortunately, as the Deputy will appreciate, there were some delays over the course of the last 12-18 months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with regard to the management and processing of hard-copy correspondence received by my Department. However, I would like to assure the Deputy that my officials are committed to responding to correspondence received as soon as possible and meeting the deadlines as set out above.
Furthermore, the Deputy may wish to note that my Department offers a dedicated facility for Oireachtas members who have queries about specific immigration cases - INISOireachtasMail@justice.ie. This service is monitored by dedicated Department of Justice officials who are assigned to respond to queries in the most efficient and timely way possible. Responses to Deputies or Senators who submit a query to Oireachtas Mail are generally made within 10 working days. However, currently the majority of queries are being answered within a shorter timeframe.
With regard to the Deputy’s question about guidelines and procedures, my officials are in the process of finalising a written procedure for the handling and management of the various types of correspondence my Department receives. In the meantime, there are informal guidelines and procedural documents used by the team that manages correspondence into my Department. Furthermore, the Deputy may wish to note that a new Customer Service Charter and Customer Service Action Plan is currently being finalised by my Department.