Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (475)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

475. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will address a matter raised in correspondence in relation to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7995/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

In 2008 when my Department became aware the late mother of the person concerned was admitted to a Nursing Home, a social welfare inspector of my Department consulted with both the nursing home and a family member of the deceased regarding payment of the arrears of pension. Unfortunately the arrears were not paid at the time and remained unpaid until the matter was raised by the person concerned in 2020. If the person concerned wishes to obtain a copy of the records he should make a request to my Department in writing and should indicate that the records are being sought under the Freedom of Information Act.

When this error occurred, my Department was operating on a legacy IT system which could not identify whether arrears may be outstanding and paper processes were relied upon to administer schemes. Since then, my Department has moved to the current IT platform and can identify cases where there may be arrears due. The Department routinely run reports to identify such cases and ensure arrears are paid to customers in a timely manner.

Margetson & Greene were incorrectly advised by my Department in August 2015 that there were no arrears due to the estate. My Department corrected that record when the error came to light. GDPR only applies to living (natural) persons and therefore no data breach has occurred.

The Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General works in accordance with its statutory remit and is objective and independent in its work. They are responsible for auditing the public accounts, undertaking examinations on the management and use of public resources and reporting the results of the work to Dáil Éireann.

The primary legislation in respect of Social Welfare is contained in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 as amended. Section 243 of that Act provides for payment in respect of loss of purchasing power where there has been a delay by the Department of more than 12 months in paying a new claim or an increase in a claim. There is no legislative provision for the payment of loss of purchasing on the maintenance of a claim, as in this case. Nonetheless, my Department made an ex-gratia payment of €4,184 to the estate, in recognition of the delay in payment of monies due to the deceased.

If the person concerned is not satisfied with my Department's response to the review of their complaint, they have the right to contact the Office of the Ombudsman, at 6 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2, D02 W773 or online at www.ombudsman.ie

I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.