Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Carer's Allowance Delays
46. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason there are prolonged delays in processing payments for successful applicants of carer's allowance such as in the case of a person (details supplied); and the steps she is taking to eliminate these delays. [53445/18]
Why are there prolonged delays in processing payments for successful applicants for carer's allowance? At the time of my submitting this question, a constituent who had won an appeal on 25 September 2018 had still not received payment. She called in on Monday and told us that she has been paid eventually. This woman is looking after her grandmother and she only got paid this week after an appeal decision on 25 September. I put it to the Minister that this kind of serious situation requires redress.
The social welfare appeals office functions entirely independently to and separately from the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Department. It is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements. All decisions taken by my Department’s deciding officers and designated persons are appealable to the chief appeals officer. About 85% of all claims are awarded in the first instance when the application is made, and just 1% of the applications are appealed annually. The Department is concerned that these cases are dealt with as quickly as possible.
Where an appeals officer decides that a person is entitled to a social welfare payment, the case is returned to the Department to implement that decision and initiate payment to the person as soon as possible. Every effort is made by the Department to implement appeals officers' decisions as quickly as possible. I appreciate, however, that there are probably far too many people who experience extended delays. We are doing our best to make sure they get reduced by adding extra personnel to the management of the cases and by bringing on board extra adjudicators with expertise in the medical decision-making process, which does not come when one has just arrived in a job. Perhaps the Deputy is not aware that earlier we had referred to this issue during another question. A number of people have retired from that particular section of the Department within the past 18 months. Although they have been replaced, things would not have come to them as quickly without the experience of dealing with appeals. That expertise has been developed over the past 12 to 18 months. We are seeing our numbers coming down from 18, to 17 to 16 weeks, and it is the same for the appeals decisions. We are not finished and we do not accept that where we are is an acceptable position . The target is 12 weeks and we are an awfully long way from that.
In the case referenced by the Deputy, an appeals officer allowed the appeal for carer's allowance, subject to the discharge of the care recipient from hospital which, I am glad to say, has happened. I wish them well in the recovery and that the carer giving the care will mind and look after herself also. I offer good wishes from my Department.
I accept the Minister's address on this but the fact was that the appeal was cleared and the applicant won the appeal on 25 September. It then went to the carers section for payment. It took from 25 September until now for the payment to come through. I accept that the appeals office is separate to the Department but how could it be more linked in with the Department and is there a way to deal with that successfully? I do not accept that someone has to wait that long to get a payment that had been cleared. The Minister said that the carers' application form is to be introduced in the new year. This will be a good and helpful measure because when people made their first application, many were not too sure about what information exactly was being sought to make the claim and to have a successful claim.
Notwithstanding the difficulty in the length of time for processing an initial claim and then for a claim to go from review to appeal or from appeal to the deciding officer, it is genuinely unexplainable and unacceptable that when an appeal is made and the deciding officer decides in the positive for the carer, a carer would have to wait as long as the Deputy's constituent has. I am not justifying the delay in any way, shape or form, but applications or appeals go back to departments and are put on a pile with other applications and are dealt with chronologically. When a person's application is deemed successful, however, we should find a different way of doing it. I will certainly make it our intention to look at that in January.