Thursday, 10 May 2018

Ceisteanna (292)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

292. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the processing time for appeals for each social welfare payment in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20756/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

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 are appealable to the Chief Appeals Officer. In any year about 85% of all claims are awarded 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 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 most recent figures for the period January to April 2018 are 29.9 weeks for an oral hearing and 25.3 weeks for a summary decision.

The appeal processing times for each social welfare payment for the period 1 January to 30 April 2018 are set out in the following table.

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 higher courts 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 year, 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. This changeover in staff led to longer times to conclude appeals in 2017 and this has continued in the first four months of 2018. However, the Chief Appeals Officer has advised that she is hopeful that processing times will improve over the course of 2018.

Finally, it should be noted that an appellant can claim supplementary welfare allowance pending the outcome of their appeal and that any favourable decisions are backdated to the original date of the claim.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Appeal Processing Times by Social Welfare Payment 01 January 2018 - 30 April 2018

-

Average processing times (weeks)

Summary Decisions

Average processing times (weeks)

Oral Hearings

Blind Pension

15.7

-

Carer’s Allowance

24.1

27.9

Carer’s Benefit

21.1

30.7

Child Benefit

35.3

41.1

Disability Allowance

19.8

25.9

Illness Benefit

30.0

37.3

Partial Capacity Benefit

32.2

22.2

Domiciliary Care Allowance

31.3

38.1

Deserted Wife’s Benefit

-

30.5

Farm Assist

46.2

42.6

Working Family Payment *

29.4

30.3

Invalidity Pension

25.0

22.7

Maternity Benefit

25.5

38.8

Paternity Benefit

22.9

20.6

One Parent Family Payment

23.4

35.6

State Pension (Contributory)

37.3

49.0

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

29.6

38.5

Occupational Injury Benefit

38.1

44.0

Disablement Pension

33.9

28.7

Guardian's Payment (Contributory)

30.7

31.1

Guardian's Payment (Non- Contributory)

10.4

37.3

Jobseeker's Allowance (Means)

31.2

36.2

Jobseeker's Allowance (Payments)

24.8

30.7

Back to Work Family Dividend

25.5

-

Jobseeker's Transitional

17.6

27.6

Pre-Retirement Allowance

-

29.9

Jobseeker's Benefit

23.4

24.3

Carer’s Support Grant **

23.8

29.7

Incapacity Supplement

-

29.0

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

22.2

25.9

Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's Contributory Pension

39.2

15.7

Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Non-Contributory) Pension

30.0

23.4

Widowed Parent Grant

35.8

-

* Previously called Family Income Supplement

** Previously called Respite Care Grant