Wednesday, 10 March 2004

Ceisteanna (86)

Michael Ring


146 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a care recipient is not brought into the oral hearing to progress a carer’s allowance appeal; and the way in which a judgment can be made on the allowance when the carer is brought to the oral hearing and not the care recipient. [7860/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

In applications for carer's allowance the basic qualifying conditions, apart from a means test, are that the person receiving care must be so incapacitated as to require full-time care and attention. The carer is the applicant and is invariably the appellant against a decision disallowing payment.

Appeals against the refusal of claims for carer's allowance normally require an oral hearing in order to determine the appeal. The carer, as the appellant, attends the hearing but it is not usual for the person being cared for to attend. In most instances an application for a carer's allowance will have been investigated by an inspector of the Department who will have given the general background to the application and afforded the applicant the opportunity to set out the basis for their claim.

This is available to the appeals officer and will usually be gone through at the hearing. The medical evidence offered by both the care recipient's doctor and the opinions of the Department's medical assessors are taken into consideration by an appeals officer. The case will usually revolve around aspects of the medical evidence and the extent and type of care provided. All these matters are established by reference to the inspector's report, the carer's statements and the medical evidence.

In many instances the person who is being cared for is not able to attend a hearing. Many are, by definition, too elderly or frail and are rarely summoned. Their absence should not mean that their situation cannot be adequately represented at the hearing. The presence of the care recipient at the hearing is not essential. They may attend where the carer wishes. The care recipient may be examined by my Department's medical assessor where this is likely to be helpful. Their doctor must indicate that they are able to attend the examination.

Testimony by the care recipient could be helpful in certain cases. The chief appeals officer issues an annual report and in his 2001 report he alluded to the issue raised by the Deputy. He stated that they could provide valuable, first hand testimony in some cases. Ultimately, the question of who should attend an oral hearing is one for an appeals officer. In general, care recipients who attend with a view to testifying in support of the carer's appeal are readily facilitated.