A record number of Domiciliary Care Allowance applications were lodged last year, with figures showing 81% of applications rejected were later granted on appeal.
The figures from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) also show that families who lodge an appeal face an average wait of between 27 and 36 months for a decision.
Domiciliary Care Allowance is a monthly payment for a child aged under 16 who has a severe disability and requires ongoing care and attention. It is not means assessed and according to the DEASP there are currently around 39,000 parents receiving DCA in respect of 43,000 children, at a cost of €170m per year.
New figures show that 8,609 applications were received for Domiciliary Care Allowance in 2018, the highest annual tally yet. Of those, 2,225 claims were disallowed. That continues a marked fall in the percentage of applications turned down. As recently as 2013, 57% of applications were initially refused.
The number of overall applications has grown steadily since and one consistent feature is the high number of rejected applications that are then granted after an, often lengthy, appeals process.
Last year 1,589 appeals were finalised and there were favourable outcomes in 1,289 cases - a rate of 81%. While the average processing time for initial DCA applications was 9.68 weeks last year, the average time taken to process appeals was 27.5 weeks, rising to 31.6 weeks for appeals decided by summary decision and 36.2 weeks for appeals requiring an oral hearing.
Those waiting times have prompted criticism from the DCA Warriors Facebook group, which has more than 20,000 members, including some who have brought High Court actions to secure the payment in the first place.
DCA Warriors spokesperson Margaret Lennon said that delays created "a very unsatisfactory situation for a huge number of families", adding that they were entitled to a decision within "a reasonable timeframe".
Last week Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty, announced changes to the current regulations governing the Domiciliary Care Allowance scheme to facilitate parents who are sharing in the care of their disabled child but living apart to qualify for the scheme. That is likely to result in an increase in the number of granted applications.
By the first week of this year there were 1270 Domiciliary Care Allowance applications and 656 Domiciliary Care Allowance appeals pending.