Fianna Fáil is calling for a major revamp of the social welfare applications process to reduce the excessive waiting times. The latest figures released to the party reveal that the average processing time for social welfare appeals in 2015 was almost six months (25.7 weeks) for an oral hearing and over four months (18.2 weeks) for a summary decision. However, people are having to wait almost a year for an oral hearing for certain payments like the Contributory State Pension.
Deputy McConalogue explained, “Hundreds of people across Donegal are being forced to wait for months for decisions as a result of unacceptable delays in the social welfare appeals process. This is leading to months of stress and anxiety, not to mention the financial burden that is placed on these families while they wait for a decision.
“The average waiting time for summary decision on Carers Allowance is almost 21 weeks, while the waiting times for Illness Benefit and Child Benefit are 26 and 25 weeks respectively.
“These payments are a critical source of income for many families across the county and the delays they are experiencing have serious financial implications for them. When you consider that nationally 1,233 applicants were awarded the Carer’s Allowance on appeal in 2015 and 3,102 applicants were awarded Disability Allowance on appeal in the same period it shows the need to reform the system.
“The current system is simply not working. Fianna Fáil wants to see the applications process for the Carer and Disability Allowance radically overhauled. The existing system bases decisions for Disability Allowance on medical assessment rather than examining the impact of the person’s disability on their capacity to work.
“We would also like to see the Social Welfare Appeals Office placed on a statutory independent footing to ensure independence from the Department of Social Protection. All actions and decisions taken by Appeals Office should comply with national and international human rights standards.
“The Department of Social Protection is failing vulnerable people by forcing them to wait unacceptably long periods of time for a decision on an appeal. The system needs to change to ensure that those in need are given a helping hand”.