Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection Willie O’Dea TD has said that it is very telling that nearly six in 10 social welfare appeals are being upheld and that there is a critical need to simply the systems and applications’ processes.

Deputy O’Dea was commenting after receiving data from the Department showing that 59.2% of all appeals made in 2016 were upheld. The most up to date figures show the same trend for 2017 with 58.4% being upheld.

“These figures suggest to me that there are thousands of people validly applying for social welfare supports that are being turned down without any justification. This is deeply unfair and underlines the need to reform the system to make both the application and decision making processes more streamlined, efficient and simpler.

To date in 2017, 10,481 appeals have been received and 9,707 and been finalised. The outcome of this is that 58.4% of appeals finalised resulted in a favourable decision, whilst 35.5% were disallowed and 6.2% were withdrawn.

“Delays in receiving decisions on welfare appeals are still too long. While improvements in average waiting times have taken place, asking a person to wait at least 18.5 weeks for a decision, after spending potentially the same amount of time on the original application is simply wrong and unfair.

“The high rate of successful appeals demonstrates that the current social welfare system is cumbersome and difficult to navigate, resulting in thousands of people not being awarded a social welfare payment in the first instance. The knock-on effect of this is a lengthy and often stressful appeals process for the applicant and a significant administrative burden for the Department of Social Protection.

“We must remember that often when people are applying for a social welfare payment it is at a time when they may be particularly vulnerable or stressed and I believe that there is an onus on the Department to make this process as simple and straightforward as possible.

“Minister Doherty must examine the social welfare system as it currently stands with a view to improving and simplifying application procedures.

“There is no benefit to anyone in dragging people through unwarranted and unnecessary appeals processes. It wastes time, expends resources and above all else puts pressure on the people involved,” concluded O’Dea.