LOCAL residents in receipt of carer’s allowance could be waiting up to 10 months for their applications to be processed – a delay that has been described as a “national disgrace”.
According to Dublin West Sinn Fein representative, Paul Donnelly, a number of constituents in the area have contacted him about the delay.
He said: “I have been contacted by constituents who have been dismayed to find that their applications for carer’s allowance would be delayed by up to 10 months and, if they appeal [any decision], it could take another 10 months for that to be processed, also. This is a national disgrace.”
Figures from the Department of Social Protection show that there are more than 9,000 applications for carer’s allowance on the waiting list – a reduction of 1,137 since the end of August.
Each week, approximately 275 new applications are received, and it can take 25 weeks for an application to be awarded. However, a spokesperson for the Department said that “individual cases may vary”.
The Sinn Fein representative said: “The carer’s allowance is in place so that people can take time out to look after very sick, and sometimes terminally-ill, relatives. The cost to the State if family members didn’t do this would be multiples of the costs currently expended.
“The human cost, in terms of stress and anxiety, is very significant, at a time when families are already under huge emotional and financial pressure.
“There are people dying before that carer’s allowance application is even processed. I am calling on the Minister to ensure that, if extra resources are required, then they are put in place.
“People who are supporting sick and terminally ill people deserve nothing less,” he added.
A spokesperson from the Department of Social Protection said: “Some [applications] are processed without delay. Others will take longer, depending on the individual circumstances.
“In addition, where a customer requests a review of an initial decision to refuse an application, this will take additional time. When an application is awarded, payments are backdated to the initial date of entitlement.
“If a person’s means are insufficient to meet their needs while awaiting a decision on any social welfare application, they may apply for a means-tested Supplementary Welfare Allowance payment from their local community welfare officer.
“The Department regrets the current delays with the processing of carer’s allowance applications and is working hard to eliminate the backlog.”
The Department of Social Protection said it has put in place “new improved structures” to manage the backlog and processing of new claims for the allowance, and is working towards having the backlog cleared by the end of next March:
“The Department of Social Protection is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers,” said the spokesperson.