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Social welfare appeals

The growing volume of social welfare appeals was raised by deputies on several occasions.  Barry Cowen (FF, Laois Offaly) spoke of how he and his colleagues had been inundated with representations from people looking for social welfare social welfare benefits and entitlements – but the time they were obliged to wait for decisions on appeals was too long and astronomical (Dail Eireann, Debates, 4th October 2011, 225-8).  He cited examples of appeals made in October 2010 for which a decision was still awaited; an appeal made in August 2010 for which a decision was reached only two weeks ago; and a refusal of care to the 92 year old where the staff advice was that an appeal was hopeless because of an 18-month wait.


Replying, the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, told them that the number of appeals waiting to be processed was 17,655, down 3,126 on the number at the same point last year.  Appeals had risen from 14,070 in 2007 to 32,432 in 2010 and there were indications of a slight drop in 2011 because the economy had begun to stabilize.  The annual intake was expected to be close to 30,000 this year.  She had made nine additional appointments to the appeals office this year, bringing the total to 29.  She had now signed the regulations to bring community welfare officers into the social welfare system of the Department of Social Protection, so we now had an additional ten former HSE appeals officers integrated into the social welfare appeals office.  It would take time to deal with the backlog but it would be important in medical cases that people supplied as complete an application as possible at the original stage and give more evidence at time of application.


Providing further details to Caoimhghin O Caolain (SF, Cavan Monaghan), the minister told him that so far this year 22,226 appeals had been decided, compared to 17,184 in the same period last year and 10,911 in 2009.  Long-standing cases to the end of 2010 had been ringfenced and allocated to the office’s most experienced officers.  Bringing the Supplementary Welfare Allowance into the department would mean a single stage appeals process, rather than two (Dail Eireann, Debates, 11th October 2011).