Dáil Éireann - Volume 592 - 17 November, 2004

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Appeals.

  311. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will report on the mechanisms for making an appeal regarding social welfare payments; the number of cases dealt with each year for the past ten years; the number which resulted in favour of the petitioner; and if there are other appeal mechanisms available to persons who are aggrieved by a decision of his Department. [29140/04]

  Mr. Brennan: Any person who is dissatisfied with a [1166] decision made by a deciding officer of my Department may, by giving notice of appeal to the chief appeals officer within the statutory time limit, have the question referred to an appeals officer for determination. An appeal may be sent either directly to the social welfare appeals office or it may be handed in to any office of my Department for transmission to the appeals office.

When an appeal relates to supplementary welfare appeals, the appeal is made in the first instance to a designated officer of the health board. If the appellant is dissatisfied with this officer’s decision he or she can request that the designated officer forward the appeal to the chief appeals officer.

The notice of appeal must contain a statement of the facts and contentions upon which the appellant intends to rely. The appeals office must then pass it to my Department for its comments on these grounds. The deciding officers may change their decisions at this stage in the light of new evidence. If they do not change their decision, an appeals officer will consider the case.

An appeals officer may decide to hold an oral hearing of the appeal, and will invite the appellant to attend. On the other hand, the appeals officer may be able to deal with the appeal on the basis of the written evidence provided. Either way, the appellant will be notified in writing of the outcome of the appeal. If an appeal is unsuccessful the appeals officer must give the reasons for the decision.

It is the policy of my Department, when disallowing a claim because underlying conditions are not satisfied, to offer to review the claim in the light of any further information not already submitted. This does not take from the right of appeal but affords the claimant the opportunity to have the claim fully examined before involving the formal appeals process.

An appeals officer’s decision is normally final, but there are circumstances in which it may be changed. These are by an appeals officer if new evidence is furnished subsequently; by the chief appeals officer if the appeals officer has made an error about the law or the facts; by judicial review; or by the High Court on a point of law. It is also open to any person to make a complaint to the Ombudsman where it is considered that the Department has acted without proper authority or contrary to fair or sound administration.

The figures requested are set out in the following table.

Appeals Decided

Favourable Decisions

Withdrawn

1994

14,971

8,063

1,667

1995

12,087

6,213

1,310

1996

11,613

5,834

1,335

1997

12,835

6,268

1,779

1998

13,990

6,441

1,669

1999

14,397

6,898

1,838

2000

17,060

7,348

2,601

[1167] 2001

16,525

7,493

2,253

2002

15,834

7,096

1,836

2003

16,049

7,034

2,403

Note: Favourable decisions include revised decisions by deciding officers arising from the case made in the grounds of appeal, in addition to favourable determinations by appeals officers.