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Carers left waiting up to four months in 'lottery' over benefits

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Carers and people with a disability face the longest waiting times for social welfare payments, new figures show.

People applying for carer's allowance and carer's benefits are waiting on average between 13 and 16 weeks to have their applications processed.

Those applying for disability allowance are forced to wait 12 weeks on average. In comparison, people looking for jobseeker's benefit tend to have a decision in a week.

The average waiting times were revealed in a parliamentary question to Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall, who described the varying waiting times as a "benefits lottery".

"It's only fair that people applying for social welfare supports should have their claims processed swiftly.

"But these figures show a wide variation in waiting times for fresh claims that amounts to a sort of benefits lottery, with people applying for carer's allowance or disability allowance left waiting without a decision for an average of between three and four months," she said.

"Delays and uncertainty puts enormous strain on people, especially those who are already having trouble coping financially."

Comparison

For pensioners, it takes around six weeks to be awarded a contributory State pension and nine weeks in the case of a non-contributory pension.

The one-parent family payment takes around five weeks to secure - which is down a week compared with last year.

Details of how long applicants for illness or injury benefit were waiting to have their claims processed were not available due to an overhaul of the IT system.

Separate information showing the turnaround times for appeals shows it can take up to five months, on average, to get to an appeal hearing.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said the appeals process was a quasi-judicial process, which was carried out independently of her department.

Of all claims lodged, around 85pc were approved and just 1pc of those rejected were appealed, she said.

The retirement of some staff and the time it took to train replacements also contributed to the delays faced by some people, Ms Doherty added.

People can claim a supplementary welfare benefit while their claim is being appealed.

Irish Independent