Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe has described information he received from a Freedom of Information request on the average waiting times for some State Benefits as “simply mind boggling”. The reply gives the average waiting times for a Carers Allowance’s claim as 40 weeks which Crowe describes as “totally unacceptable”.

The overall waiting time for some other benefits ranges from 27 weeks for a State Pension (non – contributory) and an Invalidity Pension is averaging around 21 weeks.

The Dublin South West TD is calling on the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar to instigate an investigation into the unacceptable delays and increase resources so that claims can be dealt with more efficiently and within a more acceptable timeframe.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“On the back of seeing more and more constituents having to wait staggering amounts of times for their benefit claims to be processed, I initiated this Freedom of Information request.

“One constituent had waited over 8 months to be awarded Carers Allowance. She needed to give up work to look after her dad who had bowel cancer and faced severe financial difficulties because of the long delay.

“At a time when she desperately needed help, it was simply not there for her.

“The average waiting time overall can be 40 weeks with fresh claims averaging 14 weeks.

“Another caller to my office had waited over 6 months for her non- contributory pension claim to be assessed.

“At a time when people most need support, when they can be drained emotionally and in many cases financially, the State is failing them and having them wait totally unreasonable amounts of time for their entitlements.

“Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar needs to act to ensure that state benefits are processed in a more effective way so that people can get the support when they most need it. He needs to, on the back of this Freedom of Information request, instigate an investigation into where exactly the problems lies.

“Is it staff shortages or something else causing these long delays?

“At a time when people are probably the most vulnerable in their lives, long delays and uncertainty puts them under additional pressure.

“Applicants and their families are left in the dark, they cannot plan or arrange their finances, as they do not know how long it will take and currently there is no mechanism to get any update on their claim.

“The current system of delays by its nature increases worry and apprehension in applicants who in some cases are already in bad health

“Quite simply any long delay in accessing entitlements pushes people into greater debt or further into debt.

“Delayed claims don’t just impact on the applicant but impact negatively on the whole family.

“The Minister for Social Protection needs to instigate an investigation into these delays. It is unacceptable and even a cursory glance at these figures would suggest the current system he is overseeing is broken.”