My Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible. The desire to process appeals quickly has to 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 total of 1,548 Invalidity Pension (IP) appeals were registered and requests for appeal files were received by Invalidity Pension Section in the 12 months from June 2018 to end of May 2019.
As part of the appeal process all evidence submitted is reviewed by a different Deciding Officer to see if a revised decision is warranted. This can take some time in the case of IP applications, where additional medical evidence has been submitted in support of the appeal. In 2018, 322 cases were reviewed by a Deciding Officer in the appellant's favour, which meant that a full appeal was not required. Where the original decision is confirmed, a submission is prepared to explain the Deciding Officer's decisions and this submission is forwarded to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. This timeframe for this process can range from one week where no additional medical information is submitted with the appeal to up to a number of months for more complex cases where detailed additional medical information is received.
At all times every effort is made to complete reviews and ensure, where necessary, that appeals proceed as quickly as possible.
Anyone experiencing financial difficulties while awaiting a decision on a review or an appeal of any social welfare payment should contact their local Intreo Centre and enquire as to their entitlement to a payment under the Department's Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) scheme.
The processing time of appeal outcomes is kept under continuous review and additional staff have been assigned to this work.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.