Processing times for welfare appeals in Norway are increasing

Processing times for welfare appeal cases in Norway are increasing both at the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) and the National Insurance Court (Trygderetten), with some waiting more than a year for their appeal to be heard.

The NAV is in the process of replacing old case management systems with new ones when it comes to sick pay. Photo by Henry and Co / Unsplash

Last year, the Office of the Auditor General of Norway (Riksrevisjonen) directed “severe” criticism at the NAV and the National Insurance Court for taking far too long to process appeals.

Since then, the processing time has only increased.

In 2021, the Office of the Auditor General wrote that the processing times were too long and that they have become longer over time, the newspaper Dagsavisen reports. In particular, the National Insurance Court struggled with long waiting times – averaging seven months.

Since then, the processing time for the National Insurance Court has become even longer. Last year, the average processing time was 359 days, an increase of over 100 days compared to the previous year.

Waiting times of around a year

The processing time for appeals at the NAV has also increased for several health-related benefits.

The NAV states that an appeal case related to sick pay can take up to 52 weeks at the level of the decision-making body, plus further delays in the two appeal bodies.

Marius Wivegh, a NAV user, told the newspaper Dagsavisen that he had to wait for three years to have his complaint dealt with in all the necessary instances.

“It is complete madness,” Marius Wivegh, who has been waiting for years to get his case processed, said.

The NAV has also not been able to reach its target of 12 weeks’ processing time in appeal cases related to work assessment allowance and disability benefits.

Number of appeals rising

According to Jorunn Rummelhoff, director of organizational development and HR at the National Insurance Court, the number of new cases has surpassed the number of resolved cases over time.

“Appeal cases thus have a longer waiting period, which affects the average case processing time,” Rummelhoff told Dagsavisen.

Director for benefits at the NAV, Eve V. Bergli, says that they are in the process of replacing old case management systems with new ones when it comes to ​​sick pay.

The process has proven to be demanding, but the NAV says it has already implemented several measures to reduce the waiting time.

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EXPLAINED: The incentives to attract people to northern Norway

Lower taxes, student loan write-offs and free childcare are among the incentives to attract people to northern Norway in order to combat depopulation.

EXPLAINED: The incentives to attract people to northern Norway

In the last two decades, the number of births in northern Norway has fallen by 35 percent, and the situation is most dire in the Finnmark and Nordland counties.

A 2021 survey among 1,500 young people in southern Norway aged 20–40 showed that only 3.6 percent considered moving to northern Norway.

It is no surprise, then, that the Norwegian state has tried out a broad range of support measures to get people to stay – and thrive – in northern Norway.

While these measures haven’t had a major effect, they have been broad in scope, ranging from lower income tax to investments in transport and reforms in health and education.

But what is the current incentive framework for people who want to move – or stay – in northern Norway?

The action plan was introduced in 1990 to combat high unemployment and a collapse in the local fishing industry. 

The Finnmark and Nord-Troms action zone

Many state incentives related to attracting people to northern Norway are aimed at young people.

Furthermore, these measures target Finnmark and Nord-Troms, which are particularly affected by depopulation, by categorising them as an “action zone.”

As Troms og Finnmark County points out on its website, this zone aims to “create an attractive region to live, work and run businesses in.”

The zone includes all municipalities in Finnmark as well as the municipalities of Kåfjord, Skjervøy, Nordreisa, Kvænangen, Karlsøy, Lyngen and Storfjord in Nord-Troms.

The benefits of living in the action zone

So, if you have a residential address and place of work in the action zone, you’ll be eligible for several financial advantages.

Some of the most prominent are tax cuts. As the authorities point out, special rules apply to the tax on ordinary income for taxpayers in Finnmark and Nord-Troms. Residents pay a base-rate of 18.5 percent on their income tax rather than 22 percent, which amounts to around 20,000 kroner less in taxes for somebody earning the national average income. 

Along with that, electric power supplied to households and public administration in the action zone is exempt from electricity tax.

Businesses in the action zone pay a reduced fee for power supplied, and there is also no VAT on electricity supplied in the area. Furthermore, there is also an exemption in place regarding employer’s tax.

Parents – and prospective parents – are also incentivised to pick northern Norway to start a family. From August 1st, 2023, nursery places are set to be completely free of charge in Nord-Troms and Finnmark. The Norwegian government predicts that this will save families around 60,000 kroner per year. 

If you’re a student, you have good reason to consider getting your education in the north of Norway.

If you live in Finnmark or some municipalities in Troms, you can have a part of your student debt – up to 20 percent of the original loan base, limited to 30,000 kroner a year – written off from the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund (Statens lånekasse for utdanning).

Just know that you must live in the action zone continuously for 12 months to apply to get your debt reduced.

How much can you save through these incentives?

What does this actually mean in terms of potential savings?

According to a rough calculation from Troms og Finnmark County, a family consisting of two adults and two children can save up to 160,000 kroner a year.

The calculation assumes the full effect of student loan write-downs ( 30,000 x 2 = 60,000 kroner), daycare savings for two children implemented on August 1st (60,000 kroner), and an ordinary income tax deduction for Finnmark (20,000 x 2 = 40,000 kroner).

On top of this, a family in the action zone would also benefit from the exemption from electricity tax for households.