Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy has said that the numbers of people awaiting a decision on Social Welfare payments is out of control with some payments having an average of 18 weeks for a payment to be awarded.
Deputy Murphy said people who had applied for payments such as parents with special needs children; disabled people, or those seeking carers allowance face some of the highest waiting times according to a PQ reply sent to her in the last few days. Domiciliary Care Allowance – the payment made to parents of special needs children currently has an average waiting time of 18 weeks for a decision.
The Minister told Deputy Murphy that medical cases are relatively complex to decide and therefore can take longer. The reply goes onto say that there is a provision for overtime payments to be made to staff in order to address excessive waiting times and that provision is used where appropriate. However Deputy Murphy said the level of average waiting times clearly indicate that the system is not being used effectively.
Catherine Murphy TD said:
“It is all well and good to say that some cases are complex but when you have an average waiting time of 18 weeks in the case of one form of payment it would appear that every case is being treated as complex. Four and a half months is an inordinate amount of time to wait for payment particularly for someone who is already dealing with difficult circumstances such as caring for a loved one or living with a disability.”
In a related reply the Minister said that the ‘Welfare Fraud’ campaign had cost €165,988 but the Department could not quantify the level of fraud detected in 2017 attributable to the campaign.
Deputy Murphy said:
“Given that the Department appears to have no means to measure the outcomes despite the funds spent on the welfare fraud campaign I would question whether Department resources are being used for the best purposes. It would seem to me that priority should be given to using resources to reducing the excessive and costly delays in processing applications.”