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A woman was asked to pay the Dept. of Social Protection €105,000 after her mother died...

The woman’s mother, who suffered from mental health problems, passed away in 2012.

Image: Shutterstock/KieferPix

A WOMAN WHOSE mentally ill mother died was subsequently hit with a bill for €105,000 by the Department of Social Protection.

The money was seen as an overpayment by the department to the woman whose case had been known to the department for over 15 years.

The case was brought to light today as the Ombudsman Peter Tyndall presented his report for 2014.

The bereaved woman in question was asked to repay the overpayment when she wrote to the department in 2012 to inform them of her mother’s death.

joanie Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton Source: Photocall

The woman referred her complaint regarding the overpayment to the Ombudsman who passed the  issue onto Ireland’s Chief Appeals Officer (CAO), who upon investigation overturned the department’s ruling.

It seems the woman’s mother had not had her case reviewed since 2000, and did not have the mental capacity “to be fully aware of this complex situation”.

The overpayment arose as a result of the department not acting on information available to it, while the medical evidence on file “was sufficient to inform the department that the woman had been unwell for a number of years”.

Given Social Protection’s culpability in the situation the CAO said it was not appropriate for it to seek repayment from the woman’s daughter.

That case was one of a number of striking complaints mentioned by Tyndall that his department has dealt with over the course of the last year.

Others include:

  • Beaumont Hospital calling a woman in for a lumbar puncture, having mixed her details up with those of a woman with the same name and birth year. The situation was only halted immediately before the procedure was due to take place at the woman’s insistence
  • The Department of Social Protection being forced to pay a man with a congenital arm condition €79,468 after they incorrectly ruled he was ineligible for disability support because he was not “habitually resident” in Ireland. The man had been living with his family here for more than a year
  • A girl with scoliosis being refused permission by the State Examinations Commission to use a laptop to complete her Leaving Certificate. The decision was reversed following an informal intervention by the Ombudsman, the point being that if a full investigation had been initiated the exams would have been long over by the time it concluded

Direct Provision

Tyndall, who was appointed Ombudsman in December 2013,  said that public service complaints to his office increased by 11% to over 3,500 in 2014, mainly due to the additional 200 public bodies which came under his remit that year.

He specifically welcomed the decision by the Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions for his office to have full independent oversight of direct provision centres.

“It is time to bring an end to the anomaly that some of the most vulnerable people in the state can not have access to this office,” he said.

Tyndall said he was also hopeful that all private nursing homes will come under his jurisdiction in the future, just as public nursing homes already do.

There has also been significant reduction in the number of complaints to the Ombudsman that have been outstanding for more than one year, with the number now outstanding just over 1% of total complaints, “a great reduction on the backlog in the recent past”.

Read: €96m could have been overspent in dole payments

Read: One person has been in an asylum centre for 11 years – this is how they live

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