Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Department of Social and Family Affairs
Social Welfare Appeals
Question 158: To ask the Minister for Social Protection the length of time it takes for an appeal to be heard for someone applying for farm assist, carer's allowance or any other social welfare payments that may be appealed; if he is satisfied that someone should have to wait up to 18 months to have their appeal dealt with and the steps he is taking to resolve the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2840/11]
Question 161: To ask the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 487 of 8 July 2010, if he will provide a breakdown of the total number of staff employed by the social welfare appeals office in 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 respectively per grade; the number of additional staff, appeals officers, administration staff and so on, who have been allocated to the social welfare appeals office to deal with the backlog of appeals since January 2010; if the eight retired officers have also begun working in this office; if there are plans to allocate further additional staff to the office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2969/11]
Question 162: To ask the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 487 of 8 July 2010, if he will provide a breakdown of the total number of appeals received by the social welfare appeals office by each payment respectively in 2010 and the number received to date in 2011; if he will further provide a breakdown of the total number of appeals currently awaiting decision by the social welfare appeals office per respective social welfare payment; the current average time waiting time for oral hearing; the average time it takes to fully process appeals for each respective payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2970/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 158, 161 and 162 together.
Figures in regard to the numbers of cases received and outstanding, by scheme, for 2010 and the number of staff in the Social Welfare Appeals Office, are given in the tables attached to this reply. Figures for 2011 in regard to the numbers of cases received and outstanding, per scheme, are not yet readily available.
I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the average waiting for an appeal dealt with by way of a summary decision is 27.4 weeks, while the average time to process an oral hearing is 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.
A number of initiatives have been taken in recent years to deal with the increases in numbers of cases in the Appeals process. In addition to the provision of extra staff, more emphasis was placed on dealing with appeals on a summary basis so as to increase productivity. As a result, the number of appeals dealt with by way of oral hearing was reduced from 59% in 2009 to 31.5% in 2010.
The Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2010 facilitated the use of experienced retired former Appeals Officers, on a strictly temporary basis to assist in reducing the backlog of Social Welfare Appeals cases. The matter of assigning additional Appeals Officers is kept under constant review but any consideration of extra assignments must be taken in the context of overall government policy on civil service numbers. A project to improve the business processes in the office was also undertaken which has resulted in a number of improvements being implemented and significant enhancements have been made to the office's IT and phone systems.
As a result of all of these initiatives, a total of 17,499 appeals were finalised by Appeals Officers in 2010 in comparison to 10,027 for 2009. When revised decisions and withdrawn cases are taken into account the total number of cases finalised in 2010 was 28,166 in comparison to 17,787 for 2009.
I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that she is keeping current processes under continuous review with a view to achieving a more effective throughput of appeals, while ensuring that any progress does not conflict with due process in terms of the rights of appellants and adherence to the requirements of natural justice.
|Appeals Received by Scheme 2010||Appeals awaiting decision at 1/1/2011||Average time take to process appeals by summary decision by scheme in 2010||Average time take to process appeals following oral hearing by scheme in 2010|
|Deserted Wives Benefit||14||14||33.9||29.0|
|Family Income Supplement||224||105||21.4||29.0|
|One Parent Family Payment||1,085||819||30.2||49.4|
|State Pension (Contributory)||258||110||29.6||49.2|
|State Pension (Non-Cont)||353||230||26.5||49.9|
|State Pension (Transition)||7||11||30.7||-|
|Occupational Injury Benefit||22||18||55.7||53.8|
|Occupational Injury Ben (Med)||22||49||32.5||67.9|
|Death Benefit (Pension)||-||-||-||69.6|
|Guardian's Payment (Con)||26||26||25.3||48.3|
|Guardian's Payment (NonCon)||7||9||24.3||42.2|
|Jobseeker's Allow (Means)||4,000||2,496||22.2||46.9|
|JA/JB Fraud Control||3||6||-||-|
|Respite Care Grant||162||114||30.5||49.1|
|Insurability of Employment||121||112||31.3||67.4|
|Supplementary Welfare All||989||343||6.9||14.8|
|Survivor's Pension (Con)||20||14||35.2||53.6|
|Survivor's Pension (NonCon)||12||13||31.9||54.6|
|Widows Parent Grant||3||1||20.9||-|
Staff of Social Welfare Appeals Office
|Chief Appeals Officer||1||1||1||1|
|Deputy Chief Appeals Officer||1||1||1||1|
|Retired Appeals Officers (from July 2010)||3||3|
|Higher Executive Officers||2.8||2.8||2.8||2.8|
* From February 2009, the position of Office Manager has been subsumed into the duties of the Deputy Chief Appeals Officer.