THE Labour Party Spokesperson on Disability and Equality, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, has called on the Minister for Social Protection, Éamon Ó’Cuív, to take extra measures to tackle the huge backlog of social welfare appeals.
In response to a parliamentary question from Deputy Lynch, Minister Éamon Ó’Cuív revealed that there are currently 20,959 people currently awaiting an appeal with the Social Welfare Appeals Office.
Furthermore, the waiting time for an oral appeal hearing now stands at 44.5 weeks.
“These figures are unacceptable and need to be reduced as a matter of urgency. The economic crisis means that many more people are relying on social welfare to meet their living costs. A delay in appeals can cause unnecessary stress and hardship to people who are already under pressure.
“The fact that close to half of all appeals (48.2% in 2009) are successful clearly shows that many applicants are being incorrectly assessed for a payment. If someone is turned down for a payment it is only fair that they have access to an appeals process that is efficient and fair.
“While people awaiting appeals can apply for supplementary welfare from a Community Welfare Office (CWO) this system is, itself, under severe pressure and a CWO can refuse payment on the basis that a social welfare application has already been rejected.
“I welcome the extra resources the Minister has allocated to the Social Welfare Appeals Office but it is clearly evident that more is required. The number of people applying for a social welfare payment has increased at an alarming rate over the past number of years.
“The Minister must take further measures to clear the appeals backlog as a matter of urgency,” she said.