Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Questions (312)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

312. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the total number of claims for invalidity pension claims that have been earmarked as special project cases in her Department in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11649/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

A deciding officer may review a decision in the light of fresh facts or evidence. Where an adverse decision is made by a deciding officer, the option of such a review is offered to the customer in addition to the statutory right of appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO). Where a case is pending appeal and there is a change of circumstances or additional evidence available, a deciding officer will first review the claim to see if a revised decision is warranted before the case is sent to the SWAO for determination. A total of 474 invalidity pension cases were decided in this way in 2012; 345 in 2011 and 185 in 2010.

In addition a customer may, following disallowance, request that the decision be reviewed by a deciding officer instead of or prior to submitting an appeal. I am informed that many customers avail of this option and decisions are often reviewed in this manner without the need to proceed through the formal appeal process. However, statistics of these revised decisions on invalidity pension claims are not maintained.

A structured programme to address significant backlogs in claim applications has been underway in this scheme area over the last number of months. The term ‘special projects’ is a temporary one in use during this period to reflect cases which had been at least 1 year on illness benefit but which were initially disallowed invalidity pension because they were deemed not to satisfy the condition of being expected to be incapable of work for a further year. Because of the backlogs in place and the consequent delays involved in claims proceeding to review or appeal, a number of these cases can now be deemed to have fulfilled the condition of being incapable for work for 1 year. These cases are being reviewed by deciding officers with a view to possible revised decision. These cases arose as a direct result of the backlog elimination and will not continue to occur once the backlog of appeals cases has been cleared. It is expected that the backlog of invalidity pension cases awaiting appeal submission will be cleared by end Q2 2013.