Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Sinn Féin Social Protection spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD confronted Minister Joan Burton over a decision to instruct the Family Income Support section of the department to only process applications received on or after November 5th. The effect of this is that applications coming in now will be processed before the applications of families who have already been waiting for five and six months.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said every effort must be made to ensure all applicants are processed and paid before Christmas.
“Due to the failure of the government to properly resource the Department of Social Protection, application processing times have become inexcusably long across a range of social welfare schemes. This leaves families in desperate situations. It forces them to go into arrears on their household bills and leaves them at risk of energy disconnections, eviction and at the mercy of money-lenders. It is leaving families hungry as evidenced by the rise in food poverty. Family Income Support is one such scheme in which a growing back-log of applications has been building up over the last six months in particular.
“These processing times are also a source of embarrassment for the government. And I suspect it is this embarrassment coupled with a desire to defer as many back-payments as possible until the next budgetary cycle that has prompted the minister to make a grossly unfair and cynical decision.
“I understand that the minister, along with senior officials, has taken a decision to instruct the Family Income Support section of the department to only process applications received on or after November 5th. The effect of this is that applications coming in now will be processed before the applications of families who have already been waiting for five and six months. The new applications may be processed immediately while those unfortunate enough to have made their application earlier will be left waiting.
“I understand that most of the families caught up in the pre-November 5th back log will not receive any payment at all before Christmas.
“Over 7,000 families with almost 16,000 children are caught up in this backlog. What are these families to do? What are they to do for Christmas? What are they to do with the growing arrears on their household bills?
“The average applicant who is waiting since June will by now be owed €3,500 in back payments. If they are left waiting until January, this will have risen to €4,700. Many families will have no option but to borrow these sums from money lenders and the cost of these loans will be many multiples of the money that the department owes them now.” ENDS