Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (559)

Holly Cairns

Question:

559. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Social Protection if it is an accepted practice for social welfare inspectors to carry out unannounced visits to the homes of persons receiving social welfare payments; if so, the guidelines and protocols the inspectors operate under; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38111/20]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

All Social Welfare Inspectors operate under a code of practice which sets out the manner in which they are required to deal with the public. The code of practice is published on www.gov.ie/en/publication/f75848-operational-guidelines-swi-code-of-practice-for-social-welfare-inspe/. It requires that Customers must at all times be treated equally, fairly, with respect and dignity, as outlined in the Customer Charter.

Inspectors are appointed under Section 250 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended). They are required to investigate and report on customer’s claims and confirm that scheme conditionality is in order. The powers outline the requirement for a claimant to give an inspector information and any documents that s/he may require for the purposes of an investigation.

As part of their investigations, an inspector's remit also includes the combating of fraud and abuse of the Department's schemes. Inspectors may need to make notified or un-notified home visits. Such visits to a customer’s home are an operational control measure and a decision as to whether a home visit is necessary, and whether the customer is notified in advance, will depend on the nature of the case.

It is important to understand that inspectors work across the range of the Department's activities and that home visits could be required, for instance, to facilitate access to an Urgent Needs payment or to review a case without which a delay in payment to the customer might occur.

Finally, it is also important to understand that Social Welfare Inspectors may only enter a private home if invited. There is no statutory power of entry, unlike a workplace. If a customer does not wish to allow an inspector to enter their private home, they may be requested by the inspector to make themselves available for interview at an alternative agreed location.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.