A 21-week wait for social welfare payments in Castlepollard is “an outrage and a scandal,” according to Westmeath Senator Nicky McFadden.
The situation is getting worse, with waiting times increasing from 11 weeks in July to 21 weeks now.
The Fine Gael Senator highlighted the waiting time in the Westmeath town as the highest in the country and called for immediate action to reduce the waiting time and give ease to people who are finding themselves in dire straits.
“It’s bad enough that they find themselves in the undignified state of having lost their jobs and all that goes with it,” she said, adding that families are finding themselves under extreme financial pressure.
“People are having to go to their community welfare officer,” she said.
“It’s so undignified, so demeaning to have to go cap in hand. These are people who have always, always worked, have never, ever looked for a handout and now have to wait 21 weeks. They are worried that their houses and cars will be repossessed. They are worried about credit card bills.”
Senator McFadden said the manager of the local social welfare office in Mullingar informed her that “every resource has been put in place” and the problem will be addressed by the end of this month.
Meanwhile she is “not impressed” with a statement from welfare minister, Mary Hanafin which she says is “lauding” and “applauding social welfare, saying they’re processing so many applications in three or six weeks for jobseeker’s allowance”.
The Senator, who is Fine Gael’s Seanad spokesperson on social affairs, intends to pursue the matter with the minister whom she blames for waiting too long to employ new staff for social welfare officers.
The job losses arise from downturns in the construction and furniture making industries, she said.