Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Public Accounts Committee

2018 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts
Vote 37 - Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Chapter 12 - Regularity of Social Welfare Payments
Chapter 13 - Timeliness of Income Support Claim Processing
Chapter 14 - Customer Service - Development of Income Support Application Forms

9:00 am

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Sligo-Leitrim, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

It is a wonder that in 20 years in the political system, I was never contacted by any academic to ask of my personal experience of dealing with people in the front line. One wonders about these academics, who tend to review other literature, written by other academics. The practical reality on the ground, I am suggesting - our witness can take it from somebody who knows through hard graft experience - is that this is an issue. If we want to hide behind literature and peer reviews, there are nonetheless 108 front-line workers coming to this conclusion, including myself, and I have also spoken to some of the Department's own inspectors, current and retired. I did not just dream this up to give our witness grief. It is something of a dismissal to say that we have considered everything, this is the way that it is, one can like it or lump it. I would most respectfully ask that Mr. McKeon seek out some research to see if early intervention is better across all of those schemes, but in particular the back to education one. I see no justification to make somebody, who is geared-up and focused, hang around for a year, when they are best-placed on furthering their education, so that they can add value and more taxation to the other schemes that the most vulnerable are in need of. We will leave that issue there. Could Mr. McKeon send us a summary of the research that supports everything he has been saying, but in particular, could he seek out research on early intervention, because I am sure some exists?

Some 38% of claimants who were over 80 years of age were in receipt of an incorrect rate of payment. Why was that the case? Are they doing the wrong thing? Presumably most payments to people over that age are for State pensions, contributory or non-contributory.


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