Dáil Éireann - Volume 480 - 30 September, 1997
Written Answers - Social Welfare Appeals.
Mr. Ring Mr. Ring
 381. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the average length of time from when a notice of appeal is submitted to the date a decision is finalised by his officials; and whether additional staff will be recruited to the appeals office to help reduce this time. [14350/97]
Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin
390. Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will take immediate action to deal with the long delay in dealing with appeals in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14451/97]
Mr. Hayes Mr. Hayes
398. Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the average period of time that applicants have to wait before a decision is reached in relation to social welfare appeals; the number of cases to come before the Social Welfare Appeals Office in each of the years from 1995 to date in 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14592/97]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern) Dermot Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): It is proposed to answer Questions Nos. 381, 390, and 398 together.
The totals of appeals received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office in the years 1995 to the end of August 1997 were as follows: 1995, 12,353; 1996, 12,183; 1997, 9,212 (to 31 August).
The average processing time of appeals finalised during 1996 was 18 weeks, an increase of one week on 1995. Appeals involving oral hearings tend to be above this figure, whereas those where the appeal can be determined on the basis of the documentary evidence would be less. The period includes all phases of the appeals process, including, for example, where adjournments have been sought or where questions affecting the estates of deceased claimants are at issue.
Social welfare appeals involve a degree of conflicting contentions which must be resolved. For an appeal to get the attention it merits, the grounds advanced in support of it must be investigated. This often requires a further report by an investigating officer where, for example, a person's means are at issue or, for disability benefit claimants, a further examination by a medical assessor. The Social Welfare Appeals Office has made significant progress in the six years since its establishment in 1991. Up to the end of 1996 over 92,000 appeals had been processed and the number of appeals in hand has decreased from 8,287 at 31 December 1991 to 4,686 on 31 December 1996.
Two additional appeals officers have been appointed with a view to eliminating remaining arrears as quickly as possible. The provision of a prompt service is a major objective of the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the achievement of further improvements in response times by reducing the time taken to process appeals is a high priority. However, it is necessary to ensure that  progress in this area is achieved in a manner which is consistent with the demands of justice and the requirement that every appeal be fully investigated and examined on all of its merits.
Dáil Éireann 480 Written Answers Social Welfare Appeals.