Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Ceisteanna (119, 120, 121, 122)

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

120 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection the length of time it should take for a file to be sent to the appeals office in D’Olier House, Dublin, from any section or Department once it has been requested by the appeals office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4434/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Social Protection)

The Department does not maintain processing times in relation to files prepared for submission to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO). However, according the SWAO annual reports, of the time taken to process appeals, the number of weeks attributable to the Department were as follows:

Year

No. of weeks

2006

8 weeks

2007

10 weeks

2008

9 weeks

2009

10.5 weeks

2010

12.7 weeks

2011

13.7 weeks

It is clear from these figures that the average length of time taken to submit files has increased and this is attributable to the increased workloads being experienced by the scheme areas and the increased volume of requests for submissions from the SWAO as economic conditions deteriorated.

These processing times cover all aspects of the work involved in reviewing cases where appeals are received and in preparing files for submission to the SWAO. In the majority of cases, where notice of an appeal is received, the case will be reviewed by the Deciding Officer who made the initial decision. As part of that review:

there may be additional evidence which may impact on his or her original decision and which must be followed up with the customer;

there may be additional evidence which may warrant further investigation by a social welfare inspector;

the customer may be afforded a second medical assessment by a different Medical Assessor to the one who gave the original unfavourable opinion.

The file is returned to the Appeals Office once the Deciding Officer is satisfied that his or her original decision is robust and once he or she has prepared a submission addressing the issues raised by the appellant in support of the appeal.

The Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers and works to ensure that claims are processed in the most efficient way possible, having regard to the eligibility conditions that apply to each scheme and to ensure, insofar as is possible, that funding is targeted at those most in need. In order to meet the challenges posed by the increasing volumes of claims, the department has embarked on a major programme of process redesign and modernisation, including the deployment of new computer systems.

Anne Ferris

Ceist:

121 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a carer’s allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4446/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 31 August 2011. 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. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 16 January 2012 and the appeal will, in due course, be assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration. 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.

Anne Ferris

Ceist:

122 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a carer’s allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4449/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts.

Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer has agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of her appeal has been finalised. 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.

Anne Ferris

Ceist:

123 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a rent allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4450/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 2 December 2011. 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. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 5 January 2012 and the appeal will, in due course, be assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration. 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.