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Written Answers - Social Welfare Appeals

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 754 No. 3

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 235.  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  further to Parliamentary Question No. 139 of 12 January 2012, the reason that 40% of applications filed in 2011 have not yet been processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6224/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals.

Overall, the average processing time for all appeals in 2011 was 25.1 weeks in cases dealt with by way of summary decisions and 52.5 weeks where an oral hearing was required.

These processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation and include all activities during this period including time spent in the Depart[432]ment 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.

In an effort to reduce the processing times, the Department appointed 9 additional Appeals Officers during 2011 who augmented the 3 appointments made to the Office in 2010. In addition, a further 10 Appeals Officers, formerly employed by the Community Welfare Services (CWS) of the Health Services Executive joined the Office as part of the integration of the CWS appeals services into the Social Welfare Appeals Office. This brings the total number of Appeals Officers to 39.

I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that she is keeping the methods of operation by which the Social Welfare Appeals Office conducts its business under constant review, and that the processes are continuously being enhanced to reduce the backlogs in the Office and, overall, to reduce the processing times for dealing with appeals.

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