New figures reveal majority of vulnerable citizens' benefits have been upheld

New figures reveal majority of vulnerable citizens' benefits have been upheld
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty.

Thousands of vulnerable citizens are being denied supports and then forced to try to overturn funding decisions by the Department of Social Protection.

New figures reveal that the majority of appeals over welfare, pension and carers allowance claims among others have been upheld, prompting questions about the department's decision-making system.

Now Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has been asked to review the system, as thousands of vulnerable claimants are being refused supports and have to wait months for appeals to be successfully completed.

In 2017, just over 60% of 19,658 appealed cases were either allowed, partially allowed or revised.

The largest numbers of appeals related to disability allowance, carer's allowance, invalidity pensions and jobseeker's allowances.

Other decisions appealed, include for widow's pensions, illness benefit, child benefit and the one-parent family payment. The largest number of department decisions overturned or adjusted were for disability allowances.

Similar figures for last year show that in total just under 60% of appeals were successful against the Department of Social Protection and were allowed, partially allowed or revised. Similarly, the largest numbers of decisions overturned after appeals were for disability allowances and carers allowances.

Fianna Fáil TD John Brassil, who obtained the figures from Ms Doherty's department, is now calling for a national review of how officials decide claims and whether the qualifying criteria for the system is fit for purpose:

“These are people who are applying to the Department for basic supports like disability allowance, carer’s allowance and the invalidity pension.

"It would appear from this information that thousands of people are being refused their supports, having to appeal their case and then finally being approved months later.

This is a scandalous situation and deeply distressing for the people involved. Not only are they fearful that they do not qualify for a support that they are rightfully entitled to, they are then forced to wait months, without any payments, for their appeal to be approved.

“I am calling on Minister Regina Doherty to examine these application processes to find out why so many people are being initially refused their supports, before being successful on appeal.”

In the parliamentary response to Mr Brassil, the department said there are a number of reasons why a decision which is refused at first instance might be successful on appeal. The department insisted that it is not necessarily the case that the first decision was incorrect:

“It is often the case that new evidence is provided with an appeal and that, as a result, the original decision may be revised by the deciding officer or designated person.”

Total appeals for 2019 up until February also reveal the same trend, that a majority of cases highlighted are successfully overturned. More than 56% of cases appealed have resulted in claimants finally getting allowances or much-needed welfare payments or revised amounts.

Mr Brassil says a review of the welfare appeals system must take place:

It is unfair to put people through unnecessary stress and anxiety if a workable solution can be found.

"Errors will always occur, but I believe the volume of appeals being allowed, partially allowed or revised warrants an examination of the system.”

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