In line with other Social Welfare schemes, Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) is subject to review to ensure that the qualifying conditions for the scheme continue to be met.
In the case of DCA, scheduled eligibility reviews were suspended in May 2012 pending a review of the operation of the scheme and have remained suspended in the intervening period for a number of operational reasons, including introducing the recommendations of the report on the review of the scheme and the assignment of all available staff resources to process the increased volume of applications received in recent years. New claims are currently processed in line with the departmental standard (90% to be processed within 10 weeks), with claims finalised on average within 10 weeks.
The re-introduction of eligibility reviews at this time, is made possible in the context of having sufficient staff resources available to undertake reviews , without impacting on new claim processing times. It also fulfils the requirement to have proper control and oversight of claims in payment, as required by the comptroller and auditor general.
Eligibility for DCA is not based on the child's particular disability or the severity of the condition, but rather on the additional care needs arising from the disability. So the purpose of the review is to assess the child's current care needs, which may have changed over time as the child developed and as a result of receiving appropriate treatment/support.
The number of reviews will be small, initially 100 per month, from the 44,000 children currently in receipt of the allowance. The re-introduction of reviews has been discussed and agreed with the DCA Implementation group, comprising departmental staff and representatives of parent groups (NGOs).
Information notices have been sent to all groups and made available to Citizens Information Offices setting out the exact nature of the review programme and stressing the small number of reviews to be undertaken.
The timeline for completing review forms has been extended to 5 months, to allow parent sufficient time to gather any information they require to support their review. The Department has also committed to reverting to the parent before making a final decision, in the event that the decision would be negative, to give them a final chance to submit any additional information to support their ongoing eligibility to the allowance.
The Department will deal sensitively with any question raised by a parent who has any concern in relation to ongoing eligibility.
Children recommended by the departments medical advisors, as not requiring review due to their particular disability, will be exempted. Some 15% of claims are marked as 'not to be reviewed', due to the severity of the disability of the child.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.