Families turn to High Court for disability grant

An increasing number of families are being forced to go to the High Court to reverse decisions not to grant allowances for children with severe disabilities.

Families turn to High Court for disability grant

Figures from the Department of Social Protection show 66% of applications for the domiciliary care allowance — worth €309 to a family monthly — were refused last year.

The payment is made to the carer of a child with a severe disability who lives at home, but the level of refusals from the department, and the length of the appeals process, has seen more families go to court to have decisions overturned.

Gareth Noble, of Dublin law firm KOD Lyons, said he has taken on 100 cases in the past eight months, of which up to 40 have secured the DCA payment following initial refusal. He said that last week alone, he took instructions from seven families seeking to bring a legal challenge.

A departmental review into the system of assessment and the appeals process is continuing and it is understood it will shortly be provided to Social Protection Minister Joan Burton.

An online group called the DCA Warriors has used Facebook to highlight the level of refusals and cases where payment had been made but was withdrawn. It has prompted many families to explore bringing cases to the High Court, with Mr Noble revealing that most of the cases decided in his clients’ favour were resolved without even stepping into the courtroom.

A spokesperson for the department said the total number of successful DCA applications rose from 34% to 46% as a result of additional information being provided, while 10% of all applications were granted following appeal, resulting in 56% of all applications being granted in 2012.

Last year, Ms Burton asked the advisory group on tax and social welfare to review budgetary proposals on the disability allowance and the DCA. Her department confirmed yesterday that the report had been submitted to the minister.

Mr Noble said many of the legal actions being launched were due to the “unreasonableness and irrationality” of the system.

“This seems to be an economic argument rather than a care argument. The frustration is they are expected to enter an appeals process that takes a year or sometimes more and they do not know in what way they are not meeting the criteria.”

Meanwhile, a mother of three children with autism has brought a High Court action arising out of Ms Burton’s refusal to pay her the allowance in respect of her youngest child.

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