Supplementary Welfare Allowance Appeals

Questions (128)

Tom Fleming

Question:

128. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review a supplementary welfare allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; if she will ensure that this application is processed and payment issued at the earliest possible date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29537/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal, by the person concerned, was registered in that office on 14th June 2013. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

Questions (129)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

129. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 440 of 11 June 2013, if arrears will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29552/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

A decision regarding payment of arrears of jobseeker’s allowance for the period 3rd January to 30th January 2013 cannot be made until the person concerned outlines his reason(s) for failing to collect the supplementary payments during this period. The prospective employer’s letter provided by the person concerned was dated 6th January 2013.

The Deciding Officer rang the person concerned on 10th and 11th June and left a message for him to contact the office. The Deciding Officer also wrote to him on the 12th June 2013 outlining what is required. A pre-paid return envelope and an email address were provided. There has been no response to the phone calls or the letter to date.

Social Welfare Eligibility

Questions (130)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

130. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of requests made to banks for information regarding the accounts of persons during each of the past three years; the number of times these requests were complied with; and the number of times the banks volunteered information to her Department during each of the past three years. [29573/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

When investigating eligibility for social assistance schemes, it is necessary to ask applicants to provide financial information as part of the means assessment process. It is normal practice that the customer is given the opportunity either to obtain the information him/herself directly from the financial institution or, alternatively, they can provide a mandate authorising a Social Welfare Inspector to obtain the information directly from the financial institution. Detailed statistics are not available about these requests to banks as this is a standard operational practice which is carried out as part of social assistance claim investigations.

The Programme for Government commits to a zero tolerance approach towards social welfare fraud. The Department’s Fraud Initiative 2011 – 2013 further articulates this overarching policy objective. A key priority is to ensure that fraudulent activity within the social welfare system is vigorously prevented and combatted. The approach is one which is aimed at highlighting the rights but, importantly, also the responsibilities of social welfare recipients.

Section 17 of the Social Welfare and Pensions (No.2) Act 2009 amended the Social Welfare Consolidation Act and included provision for the appointment of authorised officers who, in certain circumstances and with the consent of a designated officer, have the power to obtain information from financial institutions without the consent of the customer. This provision was operationalised in June 2012.

This particular provision is one that assists in the investigation of serious social welfare fraud and non-compliance cases. The measure is an exceptional one and is, accordingly, used judiciously and proportionally. Notifications are made in circumstances where the individual concerned has failed - or continues to fail - to make a voluntary disclosure and where there is evidence that fraud has occurred.

A total of 33 notification orders have been issued to a variety of financial institutions since June 2012. In a further 4 cases, the order was not proceeded with as the individual concerned made a voluntary disclosure before the notification issued to the financial institution. All requests have been complied with by the financial institutions concerned.

The provision has been used in the detection of identity fraud cases and instances whereby persons were employed under one identity and concurrently claiming social welfare payments under another. It has also been used to detect a number of cases where significant assets and capital were held and undisclosed.

Social Welfare Appeals Delays

Questions (131)

James Bannon

Question:

131. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason an oral hearing regarding an appeal for one parent family payment has still not taken place in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford, despite the fact that the hearing was initially adjourned due to no fault of the person in question, given the undue hardship they are enduring while they await a date for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29597/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an oral hearing, of this case, was scheduled to be heard on 19th February 2013. At the hearing the person concerned, through his solicitor, requested an adjournment of the hearing pending the receipt of his file which had been requested but not yet received. The request for an adjournment was granted.

The Appeals Officer subsequently returned the file to Social Welfare Appeals Office to deal with a Freedom of Information request dated the 5th April 2013. This information was provided to the solicitor of the person concerned on the 24th April 2013.

I have been advised that the case has now been re-listed for an oral hearing to be held as soon as possible and the appellant will be informed when arrangements have been made.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Appeals Delays

Questions (132)

James Bannon

Question:

132. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay in the documentation for an appeal being submitted to the Appeals Office, D'Olier House, from the Carer's Allowance Section of the Longford Office in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29598/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Carer’s allowance section has been involved in a business process improvement review and backlog elimination programme. New structures and processes were set up to deal with the normal weekly intake of new claims along with a dedicated team to clear the backlog of claims that had built up over the course of 18 months or so. All backlogged claims were actioned by the target date of the end of Q1 2013. New claims being received continue to be processed without delay. The current average time taken to decide new carer’s allowance applications is 8 weeks and this is continuing to reduce.

As a consequence of the very high number of decisions made in the last year, there has been a corresponding substantial increase in the number of appeals being received. Delays in the preparation of claims for appeal are arising as a consequence and this is regretted. Carer’s allowance section is now focussed on reducing the appeals.

With regard to the specific claim mentioned; this department received a claim for carer’s allowance for the person concerned on 6th December 2011. The claim was disallowed on habitual residence grounds and the person in question was notified of this decision and the reason for it on 23rd of July 2012. A letter of appeal was received in August 2012. The claim was reviewed by a deciding officer, who did not change her opinion following her review. The deciding officer forwarded all the relevant claim papers to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) for determination on 20th March 2013.

The delays in this case are regrettable. Because of its quasi-judicial nature, the processing of appeals takes time and reflects the fact that, by definition, the appeal process cannot be a quick one.

Invalidity Pension Eligibility

Questions (133, 134)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

133. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason the criteria for invalidity pension requires an applicant to have been incapable of work for at least 12 months and be likely to be incapable of work for at least another 12 months, or be permanently incapable of work, and the reason applicants are not just assessed on the permanently incapable of work condition, as seems to be the case for many applicants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29600/13]

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Brendan Ryan

Question:

134. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding invalidity pension decisions, the number of decisions that were made on the grounds of being incapable of work for at least 12 months and be likely to be incapable of work for at least another 12 months; the number of decisions that were made on the grounds of being permanently incapable of work for the years 2012 and for the period January to May 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29601/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 134 together.

Invalidity Pension is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the contribution conditions. Permanently incapable of work is defined as an incapacity for work of such a nature that the likelihood is that the claimant will be incapable of work for life or an incapacity which has existed for 12 months prior to the date of claim and where the Deciding Officer or Appeals Officer is satisfied that the claimant is likely to be unable to work for 1 year from the date of the claim.

On receipt of an Invalidity Pension Claim the Deciding Officer checks if the applicant may already have been medically assessed. If there is no suitable medical result for the applicant a diagnostic report issues to the applicant for completion by their G.P. Once this diagnostic report is returned it is viewed by a medical assessor who provides an opinion regarding the medical eligibility of the Invalidity Pension applicant. The Deciding Officer then utilises this opinion to establish if the client is medically suitable by either being incapable of work for life or by having an incapacity which has existed for 12 months prior to the date of claim and is likely to continue for 1 year. If the client is considered medically suitable and satisfies the other qualifying conditions for Invalidity Pension the claim is awarded. Applicants are not just assessed on the permanently incapable of work condition.

When a claim is awarded that applicant satisfied all the qualifying conditions for the Invalidity Pension scheme therefore the medical eligibility conditions as outlined above were satisfied. It is not possible to provide statistics broken down by those who were considered to be permanently incapable of work or incapable of work for at least another 12 months. But the following outlines the numbers awarded in 2012 and 2013 to date.

Year

Scheme

Number of awards

2012

Invalidity Pension

6,352

2013 to date

Invalidity Pension

3,233