Written answers

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Department of Social Protection

Social Welfare Appeals

8:00 pm

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 236: To ask the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question Nos 102 and 103 of the 16 June 2011, if it is possible to give an indicative date for a decision in view of the ongoing hardship and distress caused; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17023/11]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Further to my reply given to the Deputy on 16th June 2011, I wish to advise him that the position in respect of this case remains the same. While every effort is being made to process this appeal as expeditiously as possible, it is not feasible to give a date as to when a decision will be made in this case.

Photo of Patrick O'DonovanPatrick O'Donovan (Limerick, Fine Gael)
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Question 237: To ask the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the habitual residence condition review as part of the one parent family claim in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17031/11]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the evidence, has partially allowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned has been notified of the decision. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Question 238: To ask the Minister for Social Protection if she will have investigations made into the way a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was refused jobseeker’s allowance several times on foot of an anonymous report supposedly in September 2010 when no investigation of such a report was carried out as required prior to or since their payment being stopped; if it is contrary to the guidelines issued to deciding officers by her which states that natural justice requires that the claimant be afforded an opportunity of challenging and confronting the person concerned and that information given in confidence in letters containing allegations of abuse should not be available to the deciding officer when making a decision, the decision would be invalid under the rules of natural justice if the deciding officer or appeals officer was, or might appear to have been, influenced by information that was not disclosed to the claimant and which the claimant had no opportunity to rebut. [17086/11]

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Question 239: To ask the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was refused jobseeker’s allowance on habitual residency conditions despite being an Irish citizen living in Ireland all their life. [17087/11]

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Question 240: To ask the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was refused jobseeker’s allowance on grounds that their centre of interest is not in the State, when it is clearly the case that Ballina, County Mayo, is their centre of interest and that they have clearly tried to locate work in one of Ireland large town and in the immediate vicinity. [17088/11]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 238 to 240, inclusive, together.

A claim by the person concerned for Jobseeker’s Allowance was made to the Department on 27 April 2011 and was disallowed on the grounds that he was not habitually resident and that he had not shown he was available for or genuinely seeking work. The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal from the person concerned was registered on 13 May and was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in the case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person’s oral hearing will be heard, but he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

The person concerned originally applied for jobseeker’s allowance on 6 October 2009. This claim was disallowed by a Deciding Officer on the grounds that he was not habitually resident in the state, having only arrived in the State on 2/10/09. This decision was upheld by an Appeals Officer on a summary basis on 18 August 2010. The case was re-opened for review by way of an oral hearing which was heard in March 2011. While this claim was pending the person concerned claimed and was paid Supplementary Welfare Allowance. The anonymous report referred to by the Deputy was made to the control section of the Department in Carrick-on-Shannon on 18/8/10 and forwarded to HSE West in connection with that claim.

On foot of this report, his claim to Supplementary Welfare Allowance was reviewed and the outcome was that it was disallowed on the basis the person did not satisfy the habitual residence condition. This decision was also appealed to the SWAO and both this appeal and the re-opened Jobseeker’s Allowance appeal were heard together in March 2011. The allegations made in the anonymous report were on the file forwarded to the appeals office in connection with the Supplementary Welfare Allowance appeal. On this basis, the Appeals Officer who heard the case orally in March 2011 raised the report with the appellant and afforded him the opportunity to comment on it. The allegations were refuted by the person concerned.

Having considered the overall circumstances and taking into consideration all the evidence presented at the oral hearing, the Appeals Officer was not satisfied that the appellant could be considered to have a settled, permanent or habitual residence in the State. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Photo of Marcella Corcoran KennedyMarcella Corcoran Kennedy (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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Question 241: To ask the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Offaly will receive a date for an oral hearing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17111/11]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person’s oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Photo of Marcella Corcoran KennedyMarcella Corcoran Kennedy (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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Question 242: To ask the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly and arrange to hold an oral hearing to allow the appellant to state their case in person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17112/11]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. Notification of the Appeals Officers decision was issued on 17 May 2011. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts.

The legislation also provides that an Appeals Officer may decide a case before him/her on the basis of the documentary evidence. This course of action was taken in the case of the person concerned as it was considered that an oral hearing was not warranted. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Photo of Marcella Corcoran KennedyMarcella Corcoran Kennedy (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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Question 243: To ask the Minister for Social Protection when a carer’s allowance appeal will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17114/11]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officers decision. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Photo of Marcella Corcoran KennedyMarcella Corcoran Kennedy (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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Question 244: To ask the Minister for Social Protection if an invalidity pension appeal has been received and accepted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17115/11]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. Notification of the Appeals Officers decision was issued on 27 October 2010. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts.

Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of her appeal has been finalised. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Question 245: To ask the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) will receive an oral hearing in relation to an appeal on the decision to refuse disability allowance: the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17118/11]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person’s oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Photo of Tom FlemingTom Fleming (Kerry South, Independent)
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Question 246: To ask the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an oral hearing in respect of a person (details supplied). [17119/11]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person’s oral hearing will be heard, but she/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Photo of Tom FlemingTom Fleming (Kerry South, Independent)
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Question 248: To ask the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry [17126/11]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person’s oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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Question 249: To ask the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an appeal an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17138/11]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the evidence, including that adduced at oral hearing, has partially allowed the Carer’s Allowance appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned has been notified of the decision. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Photo of Kevin HumphreysKevin Humphreys (Dublin South East, Labour)
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Question 250: To ask the Minister for Social Protection the action she will take to address the backlog in the social welfare appeals office where case delays of over ten months are being experienced; if action will be taken to address the underlying reasons for the many appeals being submitted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17153/11]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the overall average waiting time for an appeal dealt with by way of a summary decision in 2010 was 27.4 weeks, while the average time to process an oral hearing was 45.6 weeks. These processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation and include all activities during this period including time spent in the Department for comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal put forward by the appellant and any further investigation, examination or assessment by the Department’s Inspectors and Medical Assessors that is deemed necessary. A considerable period of time is added to the process when an oral hearing is required because of the logistics involved in this process.

In an effort to reduce these processing times, the Department has made nine additional appointments to the office in recent weeks. These assignments will augment the 3 appointments made to the Office in 2010, bringing the total number of Appeals Officers serving in the office to 29. In addition, since July 2010, 8 retired Appeals Officers, equating to a 3 further full-time officers, have been assisting on a strictly part-time basis with the backlogs of appeals and it is intended that they will be employed until the end of the year.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office and the Department engage with each other on an ongoing basis with a view to improving decision making by Deciding Officers and also with a view to improving the time taken to respond to appeals. This is achieved through meetings with various areas of the Department, including, in particular the Decisions Advisory Office which is tasked with ensuring that decisions are consistent and of good quality.

While 12,029 (47%) appeals had a successful outcome for the appellant in 2010, almost two thirds of these decisions (7,282) were in fact revised decisions made by Deciding Officers, who reviewed the claim following the initial disallowance. These revised decisions arose as a result, in many cases, of new facts or fresh evidence produced by claimants after the original decision on their claim. In such cases an Appeals Officer decision was not necessary. In addition, it should be noted that of the 17,499 appeals decided by Appeals Officers, a total of 12,752 (73%) upheld the original decision of the Deciding Officer.

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