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 decisions taken by Deciding Officers / Designated Persons of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection are appealable to the Chief Appeals Officer. About 85% of all claims are awarded and just 1% appealed annually. Nevertheless the Department is concerned that these cases are dealt with as quickly as possible.
The time taken to process an appeal reflects a number of factors including that the appeals process is quasi-judicial and decisions have to be formally written up to a quasi-judicial standard and are subject to review by the High Court. Accordingly the desire to process appeals quickly must be balanced with the competing demand to ensure that decisions are consistent and of high quality and made in accordance with the legislative provisions and the general principles of fair procedures and natural justice.
A number of new Appeals Officers have joined the Appeals Office over the past 12-18 months 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 and this has led to longer processing times during this period. Improvements in appeal processing times continue to be a priority for the Social Welfare Appeals Office.
Where a claimant has been refused a social welfare payment, regardless of the scheme involved, and is appealing that decision, if their means are insufficient to meet their needs it is open to them to apply for supplementary welfare allowance in the interim. If their application for supplementary welfare allowance is refused, they can also appeal that decision. The supplementary welfare allowance appeal will be prioritised for attention within the Appeals Office as soon as the appeal file and submission is received from my Department.
The corresponding appeal processing times for Domiciliary Care Allowance appeals for 2018 were 36.2 weeks for an oral hearing and 31.6 weeks for a summary decision.
The current processing times for Domiciliary Care Allowance appeals to the end of February 2019 show improvements to 33.4 weeks for an oral hearing and 30.2 weeks for a summary decision.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.