Review process for Domiciliary Care Allowance must be changed – Ó Snodaigh
Sinn Féin Social Welfare Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the government to change the process by which domiciliary care allowance payments are reviewed.
Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said Minister Burton must respond to the growing fears of hundreds of carers and make urgent changes to the process by which Domiciliary Care Allowance payments are reviewed to ensure that no payment is withdrawn without a meeting with the recipient.
He said the Minister needs to address the emerging reviews backlog which is resulting in some people's payment being ended before the review is even completed.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“Last year 403 reviews were carried out on individual Domiciliary Care Allowance payments. In the six months from September 2011 to March of this year 213 reviews resulted in the withdrawal of Domiciliary Care Allowance payments. This allowance is a gateway payment so it’s withdrawal quickly precipitates the loss of carers allowance and associated benefits where these were also in payment.
“The review process can result in significant financial loss to families with special needs children. The withdrawal of the Domiciliary Care Allowance and the Respite Care Grant is an automatic loss of €5,408 per annum. In other cases a carers allowance is also lost – this can be the principle social welfare payment of a household. So it is absolutely vital that the review process be fair. Currently the review process is not fair.
“Since the last time we debated this issue the situation seems to be getting worse. It has come to my attention that due to a backlog of reviews a number of payments have been cut off before the desk review has even been conducted. So the parent has been written to and told the review is to take place, asked to submit their form along with supporting documentation – all of which they do on time. Then come the conclusion of the notice period their payment is cut off even though the department has not yet assessed their documents.
“Does the Minister agree that this is a very concerning indication that the over-riding concern of the department is to reduce its spending on this scheme and that fair procedures and the needs of disabled children are falling second to that? Does the Minister agree at the very least that absolutely no payment should be cut-off in advance of the completion of the review? It is not good enough for the department to say ‘well if we find in your favour whenever we get around to actually doing your scheduled review we will backdate you’.
“The level of both confusion and fear to which these reviews are giving rise is something which the Minister needs to take heed of and respond to.”