Saturday 29 April 2017

Questions over welfare criteria as 60pc of appeals are successful

Fianna Fáil welfare spokesman Willie O’Dea. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil welfare spokesman Willie O’Dea. Photo: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

Six out of 10 people successfully appeal a refusal of welfare payments - but most of them must wait six months on the decision.

Fianna Fáil welfare spokesman Willie O'Dea said the high rate of successful appeals raised fundamental questions about the fairness and efficiency of welfare entitlement assessments in the first place. He also said the appeal delays were profoundly unfair.

Mr O'Dea said that in 2016 the Department of Social Protection concluded 23,220 welfare appeals. Of those, 59.2pc were successful, 35.9pc appeals were disallowed, and 4.9pc were withdrawn.

"The department states that 37pc of favourable appeal outcomes in 2016 were the result of new evidence being provided with an appeal. But it is apparent that the system as it stands is not as effective or efficient as it should be," Mr O'Dea (pictured) said.

The Limerick TD said Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar must examine the application and appeals process and look at developing easier ways for people to navigate the system.

"We have to remember that behind these statistics are people waiting for a decision on essential payments," he said.

He added that Mr Varadkar must also address the appeals processing delays. The average appeal processing time for social welfare payments in 2016 was 24.2 weeks for an oral hearing and 17.6 weeks for a summary decision.

"In some cases people are waiting months for a decision to be made," he said.

But the Department of Social Protection defended the welfare decision-making process and rejected suggestions that the high number of appeals reflect badly on the original decisions.

"There are a number of reasons why a decision which was refused at first might be successful on appeal. 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," an official said.

On waiting times, the department said delays had been halved since 2011.

Irish Independent

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