Amnesty urged to clear backlog

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has been urged to give the carer’s allowance to all 9,000 people on waiting lists as part of an “amnesty” to clear chronic backlogs.

The Carers Association made the call after the Irish Examiner revealed that, since the Coalition was elected, the number of people waiting for the vital support has almost trebled.

Official figures from the Department of Social Protection show that in the weeks before Mar 2011’s general election, 3,769 people were told to wait for the €204-a-week allowance.

However, this queue now stands at 8,981 people — the worst rate since the economic crash — and includes 4,068 payments delayed more than six months and 517 applicants waiting more than a year.

When the delay was raised earlier this year, Ms Burton said the problem was due to system changes within the service and the process would soon be streamlined.

However, Carers Association spokeswoman Catherine Cox said the group does not believe this excuse.

Ms Cox said when appeals are taken into account, some carers are waiting up to two years for the weekly financial aid to be given.

She said Ms Burton should consider an amnesty for those facing excessive waits for decisions — with the State taking back the money if it the ruling finds the applicant should not have received the funds.

“We know they are putting in a new system, but that’s no use for a carer who has no money coming in for nine months, someone who has to go cap in hand to a supplementary welfare officer every week because of this,” said Ms Cox.

“These are people looking after children with special needs, older people, people who are very dependent, and it is unacceptable to make them wait this long.

“We’ve heard anecdotally that the department is dealing with new applications more quickly than others that have been there for months, so we are looking for an amnesty for people who have been waiting a long time.

“If the department is saying the decision on an application can’t be made for a year, let them give the money to the person now and review it in a year’s time.

“If it’s really the case that person doesn’t need the carer’s allowance, then the department can take the money they’ve given them back off the applicant a year later, when the decision is made.”

The Carers Association is due to stage another protest — its third in less than a week — outside Leinster House at 10.45am today as part of a last-ditch attempt to convince TDs to vote against planned cuts to respite care payments.

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