Dáil Éireann - Volume 494 - 07 October, 1998
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Appeals.
Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin
118. Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the average time it takes to deal with an appeal  in the appeals office; the waiting time for an oral hearing; the percentage of applicants facilitated with an oral hearing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18807/98]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern) Dermot Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The average time to process appeals which were finalised in August 1998, the most recent period for which figures are available, was 20 weeks. The average time taken to process those appeals which were determined following an oral hearing was 30 weeks. To date in 1998, the proportion of appeals determined by appeals officers following an oral hearing is 53 per cent.
In some cases appeals can be dealt with on the basis of the particulars supplied by the appellant and by the deciding officer, without the need for an oral hearing, and these are cleared more quickly. The average time for these appeals summarily dealt with in August 1998 was just under 13 weeks. When an oral hearing is required, however, additional delay is unavoidable.
The social welfare appeals system is quasijudicial and the procedures are designed to ensure that every appellant's case receives full and adequate consideration. There is an inevitable time-lag in such a process. In some cases delay may be due to material from the appellant being awaited by the appeals officer before a decision can be made. Delay can also occur when the grounds advanced by the appellant in support of the appeal require further investigation or, in sickness related cases, where arrangements are made for a further examination by a medical assessor. Oral hearings arranged by the appeals office may also have to be postponed at the request of the appellant or his/her legal representatives, because of other commitments by them or because more time is sought by them in order to prepare their case.
The provision of a prompt service is a major objective of the social welfare appeals office. At all times, however, it is necessary to ensure that progress in this regard is achieved in a manner which is fully consistent with the demands of justice and the requirement that the appeal of every person who has recourse to the office is fully investigated and examined on all its merits.
Dáil Éireann 494 Written Answers. Social Welfare Appeals.