under pressure | 

Concern as people endure ‘frightening’ wait times for social welfare payments

‘It's important that emergency payments are there for people, for workers and for those on social welfare’

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Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

The Minister for Social Protection is coming under increasing pressure to resolve what has been described as “frightening” wait times for the processing of emergency social welfare payments.

Deputy Claire Kerrane said there was no excuse why the vast majority of applications are taking between five and eight weeks.

The Sinn Fein TD argues Minister Heather Humphries should have made provision for increased applications for the newly announced Additional Needs Payment.

She told Galway Bay FM that the current emergency payments are mainly aimed at people in receipt of social welfare.

“And it was very obvious that a payment was needed that workers could also access because obviously workers are also really struggling,” she said.

“And it was important that they too could access the system through such a payment.

“This payment has been heavily promoted by government and very much put out there as offering assistance to people when they need it.

“It is of course a really important payment. It's important that emergency payments are there for people, for workers and for those on social welfare, but clearly this payment isn't working because the resources haven't been put in place.”

The Department of Social Protection recently confirmed that while 50 per cent of applications for the Additional Needs Payment are being fulfilled within the space of a month, other applications are taking far longer to process.

The Department said that, overall, 95% of applications for the additional needs payment – which is used to cover basic necessities such as food, clothing, fuel and utility bills – are being finalised within eight weeks.

However a spokesperson for the Department has previously acknowledged: “Where an application is not finalised within this timeframe, this is generally due to additional information or documentation being requested from the customer to support their application.”

The Department said it wished to provide assurances that that claim processing “is kept under active review and we will continue in our efforts to further improve the service”.

The number of applications for the payment have increased dramatically in recent months as the cost-of-living crisis worsens.

In July, the department received 17,000 applications, while in June, 15,000 applications were received. In May the number of applications received was 11,700.

That was a jump of over 10,000 applications on April’s figures, when just 6,500 applications were received.

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys said an extensive campaign – launched by her department to make people more aware of the payment – has worked.

The minister told The Journal that she is glad that people are taking up the option “because that is the safety net for people who find themselves in difficulty”.

A spokesperson for the Department said its Community Welfare Service “is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers, ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible”.

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