Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (25, 26)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

28 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the case work experiences of free legal advice centres articulated in their latest annual report; and if she has taken any specific steps by way of follow up to prevent the highlighted issues from being repeated. [34942/12]

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Jerry Buttimer

Question:

42 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Social Protection in view of figures produced by FLAC which suggest that 26% of the decisions under appeal are revised by the original deciding officer prior to the involvement of an appeal officer, her plans to streamline the decision making process for applications for payments from her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34346/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 42 together.

Decisions on statutory social welfare schemes are made by statutorily appointed deciding officers/designated persons. They determine entitlement to social insurance and social assistance payments and liability for Pay Related Social Insurance contributions in accordance with the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005 (as amended) and regulations.

Guidelines are issued by the Department in relation to the legislation concerned to ensure consistency of decision making by officers throughout the Department. In addition, training is provided on statutory obligations and the application of principles of natural justice and fair procedures.

In line with the Department's policy to promote the provision of information, scheme guidelines are also available to members of the public on the Department's website (www.welfare.ie) or on request from any social welfare local office.

Decisions on social welfare claims must be set out in writing and, where the decision is unfavourable, the reasons for the decision are included in the notification to the person concerned.

If a person is unhappy with a decision given, s/he has the right to have the decision reviewed, or for administrative schemes, referred for appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

A review of an initial decision will be undertaken, if there are new facts or evidence that have not been taken into consideration when the initial decision was made. This provides a means of having an adverse decision reviewed as quickly as possible. It is often the case that when customers seek an appeal they provide new information/ evidence.