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Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 26 February 2019

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Questions (622)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

622. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the waiting times in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown local authority area for appeals for disability allowance, illness benefit, invalidity pension, carer's allowance and domiciliary care allowance, respectively for each month from January 2018 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9498/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that statistics are not maintained on a local authority or on a county by county basis, and it is not in a position to supply the information sought by the Deputy in relation to the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown local authority area.

The average appeal processing times for each month in 2018 and January 2019 for disability allowance, illness benefit, invalidity pension, carer's allowance and domiciliary care allowance are outlined in the following tables.

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

All claim decisions taken by the Department’s Deciding Officers and Designated Persons are appealable to the Chief Appeals Officer. In any year about 85% of all claims are awarded by the Department and just 1% are appealed. Nevertheless, the Department is concerned that these cases are dealt with as quickly as possible.

Accordingly, significant efforts and resources have been devoted to reforming the appeal process in recent years. As a result, appeal processing times in respect of all schemes improved between 2011 and 2017 from 52.5 weeks for an oral hearing in 2011 to 26.4 weeks in 2017 and from 25.1 weeks for a summary decision in 2011 to 19.8 weeks in 2017. The corresponding processing times for the year 2018 were 30 weeks for an oral hearing and 24.8 weeks for a summary decision.

The time taken to process an appeal reflects a number of factors including that the appeals process is a quasi-judicial process with appeals officers being required to decide all appeals on a ‘de-novo’ basis. In addition, appeals decisions are themselves subject to review by the High Court and decisions have to be formally written up to quasi-judicial standards. Other factors that influence appeals processing times include the quality of the initial decision – in this respect the Department has changed the decisions process in respect of medical schemes, in order to provide more information to the claimant. I expect that this will help to reduce the number of appeals over time.

In addition, a number of new Appeals Officers have joined the Appeals Office over the past 12-18 months, to replace staff leaving on retirement. Given the complexity of the appeals process it takes some time for new staff to be trained up and develop expertise and this has led to somewhat longer processing times during this period. The Chief Appeals Officer has advised me that appeal processing times continue to be a priority for her Office.

Finally, where a claimant has been refused a social welfare payment, regardless of the scheme involved, and is appealing that decision, if their means are insufficient to meet their needs it is open to them to apply for supplementary welfare allowance in the interim.

If their application for supplementary welfare allowance is refused, they can also appeal that decision. The supplementary welfare allowance appeal will be prioritised for attention within the Appeals Office as soon as the appeal file and submission is received from my Department.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Appeals Processing Times by Month in 2018 and for January 2019

Year

Average processing times (weeks)Summary Decisions

Average processing times (weeks)Oral Hearings

2018

January

21.6

24.4

February

18.4

26.2

March

18.9

26.7

April

19.1

25.7

May

15.0

25.8

June

18.5

23.6

July

15.0

21.9

August

16.2

23.9

September

18.1

21.7

October

16.5

22.7

November

16.5

22.2

December

15.5

22.6

Overall Processing Times in 2018

17.1

23.8

January 2019

16.6

23.0

Illness Benefit Appeals Processing Times by Month in 2018 and for January 2019

Year

Average processing times (weeks)Summary Decisions

Average processing times (weeks)Oral Hearings

2018

January

27.9

29.5

February

31.6

50.8

March

22.5

28.5

April

31.2

33.8

May

35.0

39.3

June

47.1

31.6

July

29.9

42.9

August

31.1

40.0

September

23.8

29.7

October

32.6

31.5

November

25.4

34.4

December

-

-

Overall Processing Times in 2018

30.7

36.5

January 2019

41.1

36.0

Invalidity Pension Appeals Processing Times by Month in 2018 and for January 2019

Year

Average processing times (weeks)Summary Decisions

Average processing times (weeks)Oral Hearings

2018

January

25.7

21.8

February

26.3

25.4

March

34.0

21.9

April

20.3

22.5

May

21.8

28.7

June

20.2

25.4

July

25.0

30.4

August

25.9

32.5

September

27.0

27.7

October

27.5

32.8

November

20.1

33.1

December

30.4

35.7

Overall Processing Times in 2018

24.7

30.2

Carer’s Allowance Appeals Processing Times by Month in 2018 and for January 2019

Year

Average processing times (weeks)Summary Decisions

Average processing times (weeks)Oral Hearings

2018

January

24.1

26.3

February

23.1

29.2

March

25.0

28.6

April

23.2

27.3

May

24.8

28.2

June

24.3

28.8

July

27.7

31.4

August

25.8

32.0

September

23.9

28.9

October

23.8

28.6

November

20.6

25.4

December

25.7

28.1

Overall Processing Times in 2018

24.3

28.4

January 2019

26.6

28.4

Domiciliary Care Allowance Appeals Processing Times by Month in 2018 and for January 2019

Year

Average processing times (weeks)Summary Decisions

Average processing times (weeks)Oral Hearings

2018

January

30.7

40.3

March

32.7

38.8

April

28.6

35.8

February

33.0

36.8

May

31.5

32.5

June

31.3

31.8

July

33.8

34.4

August

29.8

35.9

September

30.7

39.5

October

32.8

36.1

November

33.4

42.4

December

30.5

30.6

Overall Processing Times in 2018

31.6

36.2

January 2019

29.9

33.0

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