Written answers

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Social Welfare Appeals Data

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Limerick City, Fianna Fail)
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329. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of social welfare appeals lodged in each of the years 2012 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the percentage of appeals which were successful; the average waiting time in each year in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44091/19]

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements. 

Appeals which had a favourable outcome for the appellant consist of appeals which were either allowed in full or in part by an Appeals Officer, or which were resolved by way of a revised decision in favour of the appellant by a Deciding Officer/Designated Person.

In any year about 85% of all claims are awarded by the Department and just 1% are appealed.  Nevertheless, the Appeals Office continues to work to ensure that these cases are dealt with as quickly as possible.

There are a number of reasons why a decision which was refused at first instance might be successful on appeal and it is not necessarily the case that the first decision was incorrect.  It is often the case that new evidence is provided with an appeal and that, as a result, the original decision may be revised by the Deciding Officer or Designated Person; this was the case in 37.6% of such successful outcomes in 2017, 31.5% of such outcomes in 2018 and 37.6 % of such outcomes to the end of September 2019.

Where the decision was not revised by the Department in light of the appeal contentions, further evidence is often provided by the appellant as the appeal process proceeds and, in addition, the Appeals Officer may gain insights when they meet the appellant in person at oral hearing which may influence the outcome of the appeal.

Accordingly, significant efforts and resources have been devoted to reforming the appeal process in recent years.  As a result, appeal processing times in respect of all schemes improved between 2012 and 2017 from 39.5 weeks for an oral hearing in 2012 to 26.4 weeks in 2017, and from 27.8 weeks for a summary decision in 2012 to 19.8 weeks in 2017.  The corresponding processing times for the year 2018 were 30 weeks for an oral hearing and 24.8 weeks for a summary decision.  There has been some further improvement in 2019; at the end of September, an oral hearing decision took 27.9 weeks and a summary decision took 23.1 weeks.

The time taken to process an appeal reflects a number of factors including that the appeals process is a quasi-judicial process with Appeals Officers being required to decide all appeals on a ‘de-novo’ basis.  In addition, appeals decisions are themselves subject to review by the High Court and decisions have to be formally written up to quasi-judicial standards.  Other factors that influence appeals processing times include the quality of the initial decision – in this respect the Department has changed the decisions process in respect of medical schemes, in order to provide more information to the claimant.  It is expected that this will help to reduce the number of appeals over time.

In addition, a considerable number of new Appeals Officers have joined the Appeals Office over the past 12-18 months to replace staff leaving on retirement.  Given the complexity of the appeals process it takes some time for new staff to be trained up and develop expertise and this has led to somewhat longer processing times during this period.  The Chief Appeals Officer has advised that appeal processing times continue to be a priority for her Office.

Finally, where a claimant has been refused a social welfare payment, regardless of the scheme involved, and is appealing that decision, if their means are insufficient to meet their needs it is open to them to apply for supplementary welfare allowance in the interim.  If their application for supplementary welfare allowance is refused, they can also appeal that decision.

The statistics required by the Deputy are set out in the tables.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.  

Appeal Receipts and Percentage of Favourable Decisions of Appeals Finalised 2012 – 2019

Appeal Receipts Appeals Finalised Favourable Decisions Appeals Disallowed Withdrawn
2012 35,484 32,558 50.4% 42.6% 7.0%
2013 32,777 38,421 55.0% 39.0% 6.0%
2014 26,069 31,211 56.5% 37.7% 5.8%
2015 24,475 25,406 58.8% 36.1% 5.1%
2016 22,461 23,220 59.2% 35.9% 4.9%
2017 19,658 18,980 60.1% 33.9% 6.0%
2018 18,854 18,507 58.8% 36.1% 5.1%
2019 (to 30/9/2019) 17,195 16,516 56.8% 36.8% 6.4%

Appeal Processing Times 2012 – 2019

Average processing times (weeks)

Summary Decisions
Average processing times (weeks)

Oral Hearings
2012 27.8 39.5
2013 25.8 33.9
2014 21.1 28.6
2015 18.1 25.5
2016 17.6 24.1
2017 19.8 26.4
2018 24.8 30.0
2019 (to 30/9/2019) 23.1 27.9


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