The huge backlog of social welfare appeals must be cleared and extra staff must be provided in order for this to happen.
This is the view of Labour councillor Derek Nolan, who is calling on the Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív to provide the extra resources to ensure “all appeals are heard and determined within a reasonable period of time”.
According to Cllr Nolan, the increase in unemployment has lead to an increase in the number of applications for social welfare payments. This in turn has led to a rise in the number of appeals where applicants have been turned down.
Cllr Nolan understands that the number of appeals taken against decisions by social welfare officers in 2009 increased by 48 per cent from 2008. He also understands that there are currently c22,000 appeals waiting determination and that this is likely to increase to more than 30,000 by the end of the year.
“Appeals can take up to six months or more,” he said. “The fact that close to half of all appeals are successful clearly shows that many applicants are being turned down in the wrong.
“Those who are turned down are effectively left penniless. While they can apply for supplementary welfare this system is under severe pressure and community welfare officers can refuse payment on the basis that a social welfare application has already been rejected.”
Cllr Nolan said it is “unacceptable” that those whose social welfare applications have been “wrongly turned down” are being “left penniless” while their appeals are being processed.