Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Ceisteanna (649)

John Brady

Ceist:

649. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the waiting times for appeal for all social welfare payments in tabular form. [27726/19]

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 and Designated Persons are appealable to the Chief Appeals Officer. In any year about 85% of all claims are awarded by the Department and just 1% are appealed. 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 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 High Court 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 considerable 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 somewhat longer processing times during this period. The Chief Appeals Officer has advised me that appeal processing times continue to be a priority for her Office.

Accordingly, significant efforts and resources have been devoted to reforming the appeal process in recent years. As a result, appeal processing times in respect of all schemes 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 corresponding processing times for the year 2018 were 30 weeks for an oral hearing and 24.8 weeks for a summary decision. There has been some improvement to date in 2019 with an oral hearing decision taking on average 28.2 weeks and a summary decision taking 23.3 weeks.

Finally, 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 following table sets out the appeal processing times (for summary and oral hearing cases) for the various schemes for the first five months of 2019.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Appeal Processing Times by Scheme 1 January 2019– 31 May 2019

Average processing times (weeks) Summary Decisions

Average processing times (weeks) Oral Hearings

Adoptive Benefit

Nil

33.7

Blind Person’s Pension

19.6

30.0

Carer’s Allowance

26.5

29.2

Carer’s Benefit

26.2

22.9

Child Benefit

33.0

35.0

Disability Allowance

15.8

20.9

Illness Benefit

32.6

32.3

Partial Capacity Benefit

34.5

46.9

Domiciliary Care Allowance

29.1

33.0

Deserted Wife’s Allowance

20.4

Nil

Deserted Wife’s Benefit

91.7 (1 case)

33.6

Farm Assist

29.2

33.2

Bereavement Grant

39.7

Nil

Working Family Payment

22.7

29.6

Invalidity Pension

26.6

28.2

Liable Relatives

25.9

14.2

Maternity Benefit

33.5

31.6

Paternity Benefit

34.5

17.7

One Parent Family Payment

32.3

37.0

State Pension (Contributory)

34.9

47.0

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

36.1

39.3

Occupational Injury Benefit

32.3

56.6 (3 cases)

Disablement Pension

26.5

32.4

Incapacity Supplement

Nil

32.5

Guardian's Payment (Contributory)

20.9

30.1

Guardian's Payment (Non-Con)

22.2

Nil

Jobseeker's Allowance (Means)

28.1

35.8

Jobseeker's Allowance (Payments)

25.0

30.1

Back To Work Family Dividend

28.3

Nil

Jobseeker's Transitional

27.7

37.3

Recoverable Benefits & Assistance

37.3

Nil

Jobseeker's Benefit

26.2

26.9

Carer’s Support Grant

26.9

26.7

Insurability of Employment

63.7

72.4

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

19.2

26.9

Widow/Widower's Pension (Contributory)

35.9

31.0

Widow/Widower's Pension (Non-Contributory)

37.6

42.1

Widowed Parent Grant

34.7

Nil

All Appeals

23.3

28.2