Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection Barry Cowen has said Minister Joan Burton has proven to be totally ineffectual in dealing with the increase in applications for the Back-to-School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, describing the ongoing delays as reaching “crisis point.”

Deputy Cowen said: “I have been informed that the Department of Social Protection has also process claims up July 15th.  The applications that have been processed a facing delays of up to 8 weeks for payment while applications made after that date have no prospect of being processed and paid before October at the earliest.  This situation is a crisis point and the Minister has allowed it to get there.

“Earlier this month I raised concerns about the delays being experienced by families and pointed out that the increase in the number of families needing assistance was not being dealt with by the Government.  Nothing was done.  I asked the Minister to assigned extra staff temporarily to deal with the backlog and nothing was done.  In fact the Minister has had the gall to tell me she’s ‘looking into it’.

“Minister Burton is making great waves about saving money and tackling fraud in the social welfare system.  This is important work and it is yielding returns but the Minister has completely dropped the ball on the Back-to-School Allowance, at a time when families are crying out for assistance at an extremely pressurised time of the year for them.

“The Minister must immediately take steps to deal with this crisis situation.  It is not acceptable for the Minister to remain silent and inactive while families struggle with school costs.  It has also come to my attention that a dedicated phone line setup for applicants is literally off-the-hook most of the time.  This situation is unacceptable and cannot continue.”