13 June 2012

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Parliamentary Questions


Parliamentary Questions

Length of time for an appeal for disability allowance, invalidity pension and domiciliary care allowance to be processed

Deputy Sandra McLellan (SF): asked the Minister for Social Protection the length of time it takes for an appeal for disability allowance, invalidity pension and domiciliary care allowance to be processed;

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton):  I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the current average times taken to process disability allowance appeals decided by summary decision is 30.8 weeks and 40.8 weeks for those requiring an oral hearing. For invalidity pension appeals the relevant times are 35.3 weeks and 57.7 weeks while the relevant times for domiciliary care allowance are 28.5 weeks and 41.8 weeks.

These processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation. They include all activities during this period including time spent in the Department for comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal put forward by the appellant, and any further investigation, examination or assessment by the Department’s Inspectors and Medical Assessors that is deemed necessary. A considerable period of time is added to the process when an oral hearing is required because of the logistics involved in this process. By its nature and because it is a quasi-judicial nature, the processing of appeals takes time even at the best of times and reflects the fact that, by definition, the appeal process cannot be a quick one.

Percentage of social welfare appeals that have a favourable outcome for claimants

Deputy Sandra McLellan (SF): asked the Minister for Social Protection the percentage of appeals that have a favourable outcome for claimants;

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton):  A total of 11,211 appeals have been determined by the Social Welfare Appeals Office in the period 1 January to 31 May 2012. Of the total number processed, 5,373 (47.9%) had a successful outcome for the appellant. Of these, 2,069 (38.5%) were revised decisions made by deciding officers of the Department who, on receipt of the appeal, reviewed the claim in the light of the grounds submitted in support of the appeal. These revised decisions arose as a result, in many cases, of new facts or fresh evidence produced by the claimant after the original decision on the person’s claim. In such cases an Appeals Officer decision is not necessary.

Linking application processing systems of the carer’s allowance and respite grant

Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor (FG): asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason the application processing systems of the carer’s allowance and respite grant section are not linked up to allow for the sharing of information and to reduce the burden on already stressed and vulnerable people;

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton):  The annual Respite Care Grant of €1,700 is paid to carers providing full-time care and attention to an older person or a person with a disability, regardless of their means or social insurance contributions. Approximately 77,000 carers benefitted from the grant in 2011. The grant helps carers to get some respite for themselves or for the person for whom they are caring. The grant is paid automatically to carers in receipt of care-related schemes administered by the Department, such as carer’s allowance, carer’s benefit and domiciliary care allowance. Other full time carers who are not in receipt of one of these schemes may apply to respite care grant section separately for the grant which is not means tested. Respite care grant section administered nearly 6,000 of the above grants in 2011.

A major service delivery modernisation project is underway to improve the efficiency of administration of the carer’s allowance scheme. This involves the deployment of information technology solutions and associated business process re-organisation. It is anticipated that the new system will introduce significant processing efficiencies and a quicker and more responsive service to the customer. However, it will only be fully deployed for carers until mid-June. Once fully deploy automation of respite care grant for carers customers will be possible.