The Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has confirmed there are now delays of up to 12 months in the processing of appeals for key social welfare supports.

In reply to a Parliamentary Question from Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary, Minister Burton has confirmed that hundreds of full-time carers, hundreds of people with disabilities and hundreds of people with long-term illness have been waiting for at least a year to have their appeals for state support processed.

The longest delays are in appeals for the Disability Allowance, with 4,169 people nationwide still waiting to have their appeals heard.   2,513 of these have been waiting for more than 4 months, and 321 people are waiting for over a year.  In addition to this there are 1,635 people waiting to have their appeals for the Carer’s Allowance processed, with more than 900 of these waiting for over 4 months and 113 people waiting for over a year.

Deputy Calleary said, “These protracted delays are hitting the most vulnerable people across the country.  It is unacceptable that so many people who cannot work due to illness or disability, and those who care for them, would be waiting months on end to have their appeals processed.

“I have been contacted by dozens of people in my own constituency who suddenly and inexplicably had their State support removed. They appealed months ago but are still waiting to hear back from Minister Burton’s Department.  For them, it seems like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.

“I and my colleage, Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection Deputy Willie O’Dea, have been raising this issue with Minister Burton for months now, asking for an explanation for the record number of rejected applications for certain social welfare supports, and for the seemingly endless delays in processing appeals.  While we fail to get any reasonable answer, concern is growing that this is a cynical attempt by Minister Burton’s department to cut costs and cover a budget deficit.  If there is any truth to this whatsoever, seeking to penalise the most vulnerable in this way would amount to the utmost cruelty.

 “This situation is particularly worrying coming into the winter period. It has caused enormous hardship for thousands of people across the country.  I am again calling on Minister Burton to reassign more staff to the Appeals Office in order to clear this backlog as a matter of priority,” said Deputy Calleary.