Most appeals against refusal to provide social welfare payments are successful, recent data has revealed. In 60% of cases where social welfare is denied and the individual chooses to appeal, that appeal will ultimately prove successful.
The high success rate of social welfare appeals has been revealed through data contained in the Social Welfare Appeals Office’s latest annual report, which was published recently. The organisation, which is responsible for handling these appeals, revealed in its Annual Report 2015 that there were a total of 25,406 appeals made last year, of which 60% resulted in the original decision to refuse payments being successfully reversed.
The revelation has cast doubt over the integrity of the decision making process for social welfare payments. With the majority of appeals against refusals proving successful, some groups have questioned the grounds on which these refusals are being made in the first place.
Free Legal Advice Centere (FLAC), a specialist legal rights group, was one organisation to voice its concern about the figures. The Group’s policy officer, Ciarán Finlay, said that this is not the first time concerns about the social welfare decision-making process have arisen, and that the recent data could indeed potentially show that there is a problem with the way initial applications for social welfare are assessed.
Finlay said that, of the cases assessed last year, “In some 5,2000 cases, the original decision-makers in the Department of Social Protection revised their own initially negative decision, which represents more than 20% of all appeals decided in 2015.”
FLAC also said that more work had to be done to speed up processing times, though the organisation did recognise that the Appeals Office was making progress in this area. Last year, the average appeal processing time was 20.9 weeks, compared to 24.2 weeks in 2014. While FLAC welcomed the progress in appeal processing, the organisation also expressed the view that the handling of initial applications must be sped up.
According to Finlay: “We are particularly concerned by the average processing time of 18 weeks for appeals on Supplementary Welfare Allowance, a payment designed as a safety net for those with no income.”
Concerns over the number of negative decisions being reversed on appeal were previously expressed in June of last year by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee recommended that initial decisions in this area should be made logically and transparently, and suggested that additional training for decision makers may reduce the number of unsound negative decisions and the volume of appeals entering the courts.