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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 392-396
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Applications
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals Delays
 Header Item Supplementary Welfare Allowance

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 946 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 392-396

Carer's Allowance Applications

 392. Deputy Tom Neville Information on Tom Neville Zoom on Tom Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of an application for a carer's allowance by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18308/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Carer’s allowance was awarded to the person concerned on 5 April 2017 and the first payment is due to issue to their nominated post office on 13 April 2017.

  Arrears of allowance due from 15 December 2016 to 12 April 2017 will also issue to the post office.

  The person concerned was notified of these details on 5 April 2017.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 393 answered with Question No. 341.

Social Welfare Appeals Delays

 394. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the current backlog in respect of appeals for means-tested payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18334/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The average processing times to date in 2017 for appeals relating to means-tested payments are set out in the following table.

  Appeal processing times are kept under constant scrutiny by the Chief Appeals Officer. The Deputy will be aware that significant effort and resources have been devoted in recent years to reducing the length of time taken to finalise an appeal and that as a consequence processing times have improved quite considerably.

  The overall average processing time, across all schemes, for appeals requiring an oral hearing reduced from 52.5 weeks in 2011 to 25.5 weeks in 2015, 24.1 weeks in 2016 and 24.5 weeks to date in 2017. The overall average time taken to finalise appeals decided by way of a summary decision has also improved in recent years from a peak of 25.1 weeks in 2011 to 18.1 weeks in 2015, 17.6 weeks in 2016 and 18.3 weeks to date in 2017.

  The quasi-judicial nature of the appeals system means that there are inevitable time-lags involved. The time taken is proportionate to the complexity of many of the issues under appeal which require a high level of judgement, and the need to ensure due process and natural justice. The system is designed to be flexible and fair and allows for review and submission of further information at all stages which is to the benefit of the appellant.

  Basic supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) may be paid to a person who is awaiting the outcome of an appeal for their primary social welfare payment. Any persons who consider they may have an entitlement under the SWA scheme should contact their local Intreo office.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

  Appeal processing times for Means-tested Social Protection Payments

  01 January 2017- 31 March 2017

-Average processing times (weeks)

Summary Decisions
Average processing

times (weeks)

Oral Hearings
Blind Person’s Pension 16.230.1
Carers Allowance19.422.3
Disability Allowance15.320.9
Farm Assist18.821.4
Family Income Supplement17.543.8
One Parent Family Payment23.730.5
State Pension (Non-Contributory)22.237.0
Incapacity Supplement54.256.9
Guardian's Payment (Non-Con)12.9-
Jobseeker's Allowance (Means)16.225.4
Jobseeker's Allowance16.124.1
BTW Family Dividend19.0-
Jobseeker's Transitional11.538.8
Supplementary Welfare Allowance20.624.1
Survivor's Pension (Non-con)28.517.7

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

 395. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will ensure that provision is made whereby emergency payments are made available in cases of extreme hardship by way of exceptional needs payment or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18335/17]

 396. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of applications for exceptional needs payments to assist towards funeral costs in 2016; the number granted, refused and pending; the extent to which this compares with the previous year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18336/17]

 404. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extent to which community welfare services remain readily accessible in all areas throughout the country with particular reference to meeting out of hours and emergency needs where necessary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18344/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 395, 396 and 404 together.

The supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme is demand led and provides assistance to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and those of their dependants. The main purpose of the scheme is to provide immediate and flexible assistance for those in need who do not qualify for payment under other State schemes.

People claiming supports under the SWA scheme generally only interact with the Department on an occasional basis, for example, when seeking an exceptional needs payment (ENP) or in claiming additional supports such as rent supplement. The availability of the Community Welfare Service (CWS) during normal office hours is therefore sufficient for general day to day requirements. However, in response to emergency situations such as those caused by severe weather events, local management assesses the response required to ensure that supports are provided to those affected as swiftly as possible. This may include provision of emergency or out of hours services and may be supplemented by facilitating clients with individual appointments and making house calls.

My Department may provide an ENP to help meet essential, once-off and unforeseen expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. An urgent needs payment (UNP) can be paid as a once-off payment made to persons who would not normally qualify for SWA but who have an urgent need which they cannot meet from their own resources or an alternative is not available at that time, for example in the aftermath of a domestic fire or other event where the people affected have an immediate need for support. The Government has provided €31.5 million for ENPs and UNPs in 2017.

There is no automatic entitlement to an ENP, it is payable at the discretion of the Department’s representative, taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance. An application can be made under the ENP scheme for assistance with funeral and burial expenses where there is an inability to pay these costs, in part or in full, by the family of the deceased person without causing hardship.

Statistics are maintained relating to payments under the ENP scheme, however they are not maintained on the number of applications or the outcome of those applications. Some 2,900 ENPs for assistance with funeral and burial costs issued in 2016 at a total cost of approximately €5 million. This compares with some 3,000 payments at a cost of €5 million in 2015.

Any persons who consider that they have an entitlement to assistance under the SWA scheme should contact my Department. I can assure the Deputy that the SWA scheme is kept under review to ensure that the CWS continues to support those most in need of assistance.


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