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'Utterly appalling': Anger expressed at waiting times for carer's allowance claims

More than 4,000 people are waiting for their applications to be processed, with an average wait time of 14 weeks.

THERE ARE CURRENTLY over 4,000 people waiting for their carer’s allowance applications to be processed, with an average wait time of 14 weeks.

A further 5,500 people are waiting for disability allowance payments to be processed (with an average wait time of 13 weeks) and some 2,000 people waiting for invalidity pension applications to be processed (with an average wait time of 11 weeks).

The figures were released by Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar during the week, in reply to a parliamentary question asked by Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for social protection John Brady. They are correct as of the end of September.

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Brady said the high number of people awaiting decisions for social welfare payments is an “outrage”.

The number of people, some of the most vulnerable in our society, who are waiting on the most crucial of social welfare payments, is utterly appalling.

An FOI request submitted by Sinn Féin shows that, as of 30 September, the average waiting time to receive a carer’s allowance was 40 weeks overall or 14 weeks for fresh claims.

Brady added: “To put these figures into context, there are over 4,000 carers across this state waiting weeks on end for a carer’s allowance payment … These are carers that save the state millions annually by caring for somebody at home.

shutterstock_407213710 Source: Shutterstock/Photographee.eu

“There are 7,620 people with a disability currently waiting for either disability allowance or the invalidity pension. Again, the same FOI request has shown waiting times of 19 weeks for disability allowance and a 21-week wait for the invalidity pension.

In many cases a social welfare payment may be the only form of income for the most vulnerable in our society. Those with a disability and carers are reliant on these payments and far too many of them are being left waiting.

Extra staff 

When discussing the issue in the Dáil recently, Varadkar said:

“Reducing waiting times is a priority for the department and we are working hard to make this happen. As part of its programme of service delivery modernisation, a range of initiatives aimed at streamlining the processing of claims, supported by modern technology, have been implemented by the department in recent years.

“In addition, staffing needs are regularly reviewed, having regard to workloads and the competing demands arising, to ensure that the best use is made of all available resources.

Where additional staffing is deployed to a scheme, such as has happened for carer’s allowance (CA), there is a time-lag involved while those staff are trained and build up expertise.

“The department has seen a significant reduction in CA processing from 22 weeks at the end of May to 14 weeks at the end of September and expects the processing times for schemes to reduce further over the next few months, as recently assigned staff get up to speed with the work involved in claim processing.”

Read: Waiting times for social welfare payments vary from one week to 40 weeks

Read: The doctor revamping emergency departments in the US has some advice for Irish hospitals

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Órla Ryan

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