Figures show that two-thirds of applications for Disability Allowance that were initially rejected were later granted on appeal.
The figures provided by the Department of Social Protection also show that 42% of initial applications for the payment were also refused, with the Disability Federation of Ireland querying the methods used in determining who receives Disability Allowance.
As of the end of last year, 126,203 people were in receipt of Disability Allowance.
The Department of Social Protection received 23,804 DA applications last year, and 28,696 DA applications were decided upon in 2016, including a number of applications that were still on the books at the end of 2015.
Of those 28,696 applications, 16,669 were awarded and 12,027 were disallowed. The number refused accounts for 42% of all applications dealt with last year, although the comparable amount of applications refused in 2015 was actually closer to 50%.
Last year another 947 applications were withdrawn and 68 people had their Disability Allowance terminated following a medical review.
As for some of those applications that were rejected, 4,285 Disability Allowance appeals were decided by the Social Welfare Appeals Office last year, of which 2,830 were allowed (66%), while 88 appeals were partially allowed and 1,367 were disallowed.
Joan O’Donnell, development manager with the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI), said the figures indicate there is “clearly a systematic problem” in how Disability Allowance criteria are determined.
“Year on year, we are seeing huge numbers of people applying for Disability Allowance — a payment that is not only means tested but extremely difficult to get,” Ms O’Donnell said.
“It points to the lack of other options for people left behind in the good times, and now that the economy is in better shape, they continue to find themselves living on a payment that is the same as jobseekers.”
Regarding the 42% of applications that got turned down last year and the 66% of those who appealed subsequently and got the payment, she said: “No one wants to live on welfare payments if they can be supported into work, or they have other options. There is clearly a systemic problem when so many people who need and are entitled to social protection by the State continue to get turned down.
"For those who can and want to work, effective supports must be put in place. For others this is not an option and the payments system needs to respond to their needs. We encourage people to fill out all parts of the form and give the Department of Social Protection all the information they need to process their claim.
"We also encourage people to appeal if they are not successful the first time round.”
Last November a survey of 3,000 Disability Allowance recipients, conducted by the Department of Social Protection, found that the majority of recipients believed mental health is the issue that affects them the most — ahead of any mobility or physical issue.
It also showed difficulties for Disability Allowance recipients in accessing work and education.
When asked to rank the health issues that affect them, 50% said mental health issues; while 49% said mobility issues.
Access to medical cards was the most often mentioned support in achieving employment ambitions and goals, cited by 64% of respondents.
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