Dáil Question to the Minister for Social Protection

To ask the Minister for Social Protection if there is a review process for persons that are initially refused social welfare payments based on the same information on which they win their appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Protection (Joan Burton T.D):

Decisions on statutory social welfare schemes are made by statutorily appointed Deciding Officers/Designated Persons.  They determine entitlement to social insurance and social assistance payments and liability for Pay Related Social Insurance contributions in accordance with the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005 (as amended) and regulations. 

The rules of natural justice and fair procedures are applied by deciding officers when making decisions that could have an adverse effect on the person concerned.  Deciding officers and others involved in the process will assist claimants as far as possible in making their applications but, as a matter of law, the burden of providing evidence to support a claim rests with claimants.

Disqualifications and disallowances are issued to the customer in writing and include an explanation of the reason/s for the decision.  The disallowance/disqualification grounds, and reason/s for same, are outlined clearly and are sufficient to enable the appellant to lodge an appeal. 

Persons are advised, in their decision letters, of their right to seek a departmental review of the initial decision and are advised as to how to lodge an appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO).  

Where a review is sought, the deciding officer re-examines the case and, taking account of any new facts or evidence, may revise his/ her decision. 

In 2011, 42% of favourable decisions made following lodgement of appeal applications, were as a result of deciding officers revising their original decisions, which obviated the need for claimants to go through the full appeals process.  These revised decisions arose as a result, in most cases, of new facts or fresh evidence produced by the claimant after the original decision on his /her claim.  The figures illustrate that the review process is well understood and utilised.

Customers may provide new information/ evidence at appeal stage, in particular during oral hearings, which may not have been available to the deciding officer at review stage, and could result in a revised decision by an appeals officer.