Written answers

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Department of Social Protection

Social Welfare Schemes Appeals

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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To ask the Minister for Social Protection the number of appeals on hand in the appeals office for more than three months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57750/12]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The number of appeals on hands for more than three months in the Social Welfare Appeals Office at 18th December 2012, is 13,232. A breakdown of the current status of these appeals is given in the Table.

There was a rapid and sustained increase in the number of appeals from 2009 to date which has placed extraordinary pressure on the SWAO. Significant resources and efforts have been put into reducing backlogs and improving processing times for appellants, including the assignment of 15 additional Appeals Officers, retaining retired experienced officers for 18 months ending December 2011, improving business processes and implementing a new operating model.

As a result of these measures, there has been significant increase in the number of appeals finalised from an average of 13,500 in 2009 to 34,027 in 2011 and the processing times have reduced by an overall 10.2 weeks in the nine months of this year. Further improvement is needed and in that regard,

- The Chief Appeals Officer expects to finalise 6,000 more cases in 2013 than in 2012;

- There is a major programme of process redesign and modernisation currently underway in relation to many scheme areas which will reduce backlogs and will also reduce the time taken for the Department to respond to requests from the SWAO for submissions in relation to appeals;

- It is planned to recruit 8 additional Medical Assessors in 2013.

All these measures together will reduce the waiting time for appellants.

However, by its nature and because it is a quasi-judicial process, the processing of appeals takes time even at the best of times and reflects the fact that while every effort is made to deal with appeals as fast as possible this cannot be at the expense of fairness of due process.

Table: Appeals on hands for more than three months

With Social Welfare Appeals Office5,488
Awaiting response from Line Section 6,006
Awaiting Medical Review and Assessment1,590
Awaiting Response from Appellant 148


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