I am asking on the Minister for Social Protection, Eamon O’Cuiv, to provide additional staff and resources to allow the huge backlog of social welfare appeals to be cleared.The queues in Letterkenny at the High Rd Social Welfare Office is a reflection of the Government actions over the past decade. Developers advising Ministers and the Anglo fiasco.
“Donegal has the highest rate of unemployment in the country and we are haemmoraging jobs. the news that Oatfield sweets are letting 30 jobs go is an indication of the seriousness of the situation.
With the major increase in the number of people losing their jobs, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of applications for social welfare payments. This, in turn, has led to a massive increase in the number of appeals where applicants have been turned down.
“The number of appeals taken against decisions of social welfare officers in 2009 amounted to 25,963, an increase of 48% in the number for 2008. I Understand that there are currently in the region of 22,000 appeals waiting determination and that this is likely to increase to more than 30,000 by the end of the year.
“Appeals can take up to six months or more for the outcome of an appeal to determine whether or not he is entitled to a full contributory state pension.
“The fact that close to half of all appeals (48.2% in 2009) are successful clearly shows that many applicants are being turned down in the wrong.
“Many of those whose applications for social welfare payments are turned down are effectively left penniless, creating real hardship. While they can apply for supplementary welfare from a Community Welfare Office (CWO) this system is, itself, under severe pressure and CWO can refuse payment on the basis that a social welfare application has already been rejected.
“While there have been some additional staff provided for the Social Welfare Appeals Office, this has been nothing like enough to cope with the huge growth in social welfare applications. For instance, the number of people on the Live Register has increased by 95% over the past two years.
“It is unacceptable that those whose social welfare applications have been wrongly turned down are being left penniless while there appeals are being processed. Minister O’Cuiv must provide the staff and resources to ensure that the backlog is cleared and that all appeals are heard and determined within a reasonable period of time.”