Campaigners disagree with department over allowance

A group of campaigners for families with children seeking or receiving domiciliary care allowance (DCA) has taken issue with the time taken to process applications.

Campaigners disagree with department over allowance

Figures provided by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection show that 8,197 claims for the monthly payment were received last year, and that 6,010 applications were awarded, with 2,187 refused.

DCA is paid for a child aged under 16 with a severe disability and who requires ongoing care and attention. The application process has been the focus of court cases in recent years, although the latest figures indicate that applicants are now more likely to receive the payment than not. In 2014, more than half of all applications were refused at the first stage.

Some 1,199 appeals against an initial refusal were lodged last year, and the department said that, in 650 cases, the decision was revised or the appeal allowed. According to the department, at the end of last year there were 1,240 DCA claims awaiting decision, with an average waiting time in December of under 12 weeks, which the department said was a reduction from 21 weeks in July 2017.

There were a total of 814 appeals awaiting decision at year end and, according to the department, the average processing time for domiciliary care allowance appeals last year was 34.4 weeks for appeals requiring an oral hearing, and 27.2 weeks for appeals determined by summary decision.

However, campaign group the DCA Warriors, members of which have been involved in court challenges against the department over the payment, said the experience of some applicants was different to the situation outlined by the department’s figures.

The group has 16,000 members on its Facebook page and spokeswoman Margaret Lennon said a survey of more than 500 indicated that just 3.07 % were issued a decision on their application for DCA in under 12 weeks.

“More than 70% waited longer than 12 weeks for a decision, those who were refused waited longer than 12 weeks on review, and another wait of more than 12 weeks for appeal,” she said.

Ms Lennon also said 2.56% of members surveyed waited longer than six months for appeal, six months for review, and a further six months for appeal.

She said: “Members who have contacted Department for an indication of time frame have received the following reply: ‘Your Application for Domiciliary Care Allowance has been received, it is currently taking a minimum of 18 weeks to process DCA claims’.

“This is a very unsatisfactory situation for a huge number of families. These families are often placed in the position of having to leave paid employment to care for their child and then forced through a very difficult and daunting process, while having no income.

“They are entitled to a decision within a reasonable timeframe; 18 weeks minimum for a decision is not a reasonable time frame.”

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