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Social Welfare Appeals.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 3 November 2009

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Questions (818, 819, 820, 821, 822)

Michael Ring

Question:

897 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of appeals pending a decision in the social welfare appeals office, by social welfare payment category and the average length of time each category takes to finalise the appeal in tabular format; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39241/09]

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Michael Ring

Question:

898 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of carer’s allowance appeals lodged with the social welfare appeals office over 12 months ago, over nine months ago and over six months ago as compared to the number of carer’s allowance appeals on hand in October 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39242/09]

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Michael Ring

Question:

899 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the frequency with which oral hearings are held on appeals in County Mayo; the number of cases on appeal waiting to be dealt with by the appeals office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39243/09]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 897 to 899, inclusive, together, which seek statistical information on the work of the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

I am advised by the Chief Appeals Officer that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in this format and that the assembly and collation of such information would take some time and, of necessity, divert resources away from the processing of appeals which is the top priority for the office. I do not think it would be appropriate to cause further delays for people awaiting a decision on their appeal by diverting the efforts of the Appeals Office towards compiling this information.

Enda Kenny

Question:

900 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo had their disability allowance stopped; when a decision on their appeal will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39248/09]

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The claim for disability allowance, by the person concerned, was disallowed by a Deciding Officer of the Department on 19 September 2009 following an assessment by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that she was not medically suitable.

An appeal was opened on 30 September 2009 and the Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that, in accordance with statutory requirements, the Department was asked for the documentation in the case and the Deciding Officer's comments on the grounds of the appeal. In that context, an examination by another Medical Assessor will be carried out. The person concerned will be advised when the arrangements have been completed. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Tom Hayes

Question:

901 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of appeals awaiting processing in the central social welfare appeals office; the length of the waiting list for an appeal to be processed there; the number of staff employed in that office, the number of appeals processed centrally in that office every year for the last five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39261/09]

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I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that there are, currently, just over 14,000 appeals awaiting processing by that office and that, during 2008, the average time taken to process all appeals (i.e. those decided summarily and by way of oral hearing) was 22 weeks. However, if allowance was made for the 25% most protracted cases, the average time fell to just over 14 weeks. Those processing times replicate those for 2007 notwithstanding the fact that there was an increase of 27% in the number of appeals received during 2008. I am advised that there has been a further increase of 41% in the number of appeals received to date this year over the corresponding period in 2008 and, while average processing times for 2009 are not yet available, I am concerned they will have deteriorated when compared to the 2008 position.

The number of staff employed in the Social Welfare Appeals Office is, as outlined in the Annual Report of the Chief Appeals Officer, 59. These comprise the Chief Appeals Officer, the Deputy Chief Appeals Officer, 17 Appeals Officers and 40 administrative staff.

Two additional Appeals Officers were appointed to the Social Welfare Appeals Office earlier this year in recognition of the increased workload in the office.

The number of appeals processed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office during the last five years is as follows:

2004 — 14,089

2005 — 13,419

2006 — 14,006

2007 — 13,845

2008 — 15,724

Improving processing times and introducing efficiencies remains a major objective of the Social Welfare Appeals Office, however, it is necessary at all times, given the quasi-judicial nature of the appeals process, to ensure that progress in this regard is achieved in a manner which is not in conflict with due process in terms of the rights of appellants and adherence to the requirements of natural justice.

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