Written answers

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Department of Social Protection

Social Welfare Appeals

9:00 pm

Photo of Áine CollinsÁine Collins (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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Question 224: To ask the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be called for an oral hearing to progress their appeal against the decision not to grant them disability allowance. [7588/11]

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 decision.

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. If there is any new evidence or new facts pertinent to this case that was not brought to the attention of the Appeals Officer during the determination of this appeal, they may be submitted to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for further consideration.

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 this case 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 Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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Question 225: To ask the Minister for Social Protection the average length of time which is now being taken to conclude an appeal in respect of domiciliary care allowance; the average length of time being taken where an oral hearing is requested; her views on the timeframes; the steps she will take to expedite the processes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7614/11]

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 average waiting time for a domiciliary care appeal dealt with by way of a summary decision in 2010 was 26.8 weeks, while the average time to process an oral hearing was 49.1 weeks. These processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation. These 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. As can be seen from the figures, 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 order to be fair to all appellants, these appeals are dealt with in strict chronological order.

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.

In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hands, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

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

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