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Sunday 4 December 2016

'Waiting up to one year for welfare approval is unacceptable' - O'Dea

Fianna Fail's Willie O'Dea Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fail's Willie O'Dea Photo: Tom Burke
Fine Gael's Leo Varadkar

People seeking welfare payments can wait up to a year to have their application cleared, new figures have revealed.

Fianna Fail's Willie O'Dea has described the situation as "utterly unacceptable" as he pointed out that some of the affected benefits were "vital payments".

Data released by minister Leo Varadkar's Social Protection Department shows average processing time for payments in 2016 is 17.3 weeks for a decision by officials and 24.3 weeks for an appeal which required an oral hearing. This equates to almost 10 months.

The figures show that some categories of welfare payments can take well over a year in cases where an appeal is involved.

These include child benefit payments, where a decision by officials can take over 22 weeks, and if an appeal is involved it takes another 60 weeks, making a total of 16 months.

A contributory pension application can take over 66 weeks to be resolved. An official decision averages 28 weeks, and an appeal another 38 weeks.

A domiciliary carer's allowance averages 23 weeks for a decision and another 28 weeks for an appeal to be decided.

An invalidity pension application takes 28 weeks for an official decision. In the event of an appeal, the average additional waiting period is 31 weeks, making a total of 59 weeks.

A blind pension application averages precisely one year to clear, with 17 weeks for a decision and a further 35 weeks in event of an appeal.

For unemployed people, it averages a total of 35 weeks to get clearance for Jobseekers' Allowance.

That is 15 weeks for an official's decision and 20 more weeks if there is an appeal.

Fianna Fail welfare spokesman, Mr O'Dea said the delays in giving a decision to people, many of whom are in desperate circumstances, were very disturbing.

"When you consider that these are vital payments, the length of time a person is awaiting a decision is hugely important.

"The waiting time can have significant financial repercussions for the applicant, putting many at risk of poverty while awaiting the outcome of a decision," Mr O'Dea said.

Waiting

"It is utterly unacceptable in this day and age that, for certain payments, people can be left waiting over a year for a final decision to be made.

"When unemployment was high, people were treated better. It is hard to understand just what is going on," Mr O'Dea added.

The Fianna Fail spokesman also said that he was concerned at the high level of appeals.

He said it did not help people have confidence in the welfare system, and left them doubting that they were getting fair play.

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