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GUIDE TO THE FUNCTIONS,

RECORDS AND PROCEDURES OF THE

SOCIAL WELFARE APPEALS OFFICE

2014

SOCIAL WELFARE APPEALS OFFICE

This guide is produced to help members of the public in ascertaining and exercising their rights under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (as amended) . It is published in accordance with sections 15 and 16 of the Act.

Part 1

contains a guide to the structure and the functions of the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Part 2

contains information on the rules and practices of the Office in exercising its statutory duties.

Part 3

sets out the rights of persons under the Freedom of Information Act and how information held by the Appeals Office may be accessed.



CONTENTS

PART l - PURPOSE OF THE MANUAL AND GUIDE TO FUNCTIONS

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 Statutory rights

1.2 Purpose of this guide

1.3 Explanation of terms

2. SOCIAL WELFARE APPEALS OFFICE

2.1 Description and Functions

2.2 Mission Statement

2.3 Organisation

2.4 Structure

2.4.1 Appeals Officers

2.4.2 Administration

2.5 Delivery of service

PART 2 - RULES AND PRACTICES OF THE OFFICE

3. APPEALS PROCEDURES

3 .1 Making an appeal

3.1.1 Notification of appeal

3.1.2 Time for making an appeal

3.1.3 Content of appeal

3.1.4 Acknowledgement of appeal

3.1.5 Withdrawal of appeal

3.2 Pre-determination procedures

3.2.1 Submission by Department

3.2.2 Submission by Health Service Executive

3.2.3 Notification to concerned persons

3.2.4 Referral of appeal to Appeals Officer

3.2.5 Alternate reference to courts

3.3 Procedures relating to determining appeals

3.3.1 Requests for further information

3.3.2 Summary procedures or oral hearings

3.3.3 Venue for oral hearing

3.3.4 Attendance at oral hearing

3.3.5 Payment of expenses

3.3.6 Format of oral hearing

3.3.7 Failure to attend oral hearing

3.4 Post-determination procedures

3.4.1 Decision of Appeals Officer

3.4.2 Notification of decision

4. DECISION-MAKING BY APPEALS OFFICERS

4.1 Question for consideration

4.2 Evidence to be considered

4.3 Application of legislation

4.4 Statutory interpretations

5. REVIEW OF DECISIONS

5.1 Revision by an Appeals Officer or by Chief Appeals Officer

5.2 Review by Courts

PART 3 - HOW TO GET INFORMATION

6. HOW TO GET INFORMATION

6.1 Routinely available information

6.2 Classes of record held

6.3 Applications under the FOI Act

6.3.1 Statutory rights

6.3.2 Records covered by the Act

6.3.3 Where to send your request

6.3.4 Decision within 4 weeks

6.4 Fees

6.4.1 Upfront fees

6.4.2 Search and Retrieval/Photocopying fees

6.5 Rights of review and appeal

6.5.1 Internal review

6.5.2 Review by the commissioner

APPENDICES

A. Glossary of Terms

B. Jurisdiction of Appeals Officer

C. Organisation Chart of Office


PART l - PURPOSE OF THE MANUAL AND GUIDE TO FUNCTIONS

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 Statutory Rights

The Freedom of Information Act 1997 (FOI), which came into effect on 21 April, 1998 , established three new statutory rights:

The Act asserts the right of members of the public to obtain access to official information to the greatest extent possible consistent with the public interest and the right to privacy of individuals.

1.2 Purpose of this guide

The Social Welfare Appeals Office (the Office) is a public body within the meaning of the Freedom of Information Act. This manual has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of sections 15 and 16 of the Act. Its purpose is to facilitate access to official information held by outlining

1.3 Explanation of terms

As some terminology used to describe the work of the Office and the information held may not be familiar to the general public, an explanation of the more common elements of this terminology is set out in the glossary at Appendix A.

2. THE SOCIAL WELFARE APPEALS OFFICE

2.1 Description and Functions

The Social Welfare Appeals Office operates independently of the Department of Social Protection.

It is charged with determining appeals by persons who are dissatisfied with decisions made by Deciding Officers or Designated Persons of the Department on questions relating to entitlement to social welfare payments and insurability of employment under the Social Welfare Acts.

The statutory basis for the appeals process is contained in Part 10 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 and in Regulations made under provisions of that legislation.

A list of the matters within the jurisdiction of the appeals process is set out in Appendix B

Further general information on the appeals process is to be found in the leaflets produced by the Office and in the annual reports by the Chief appeals Officer to the Minister for Social Protection.

2.2 Mission Statement

The mission of the Social Welfare Appeals Office is to provide an independent, accessible and fair appeals service for entitlement to social welfare payments and to deliver that service in a prompt and courteous manner.

In seeking to fulfil that role the Office places particular value on a high level of customer service and efficient administration.

2.3 Organisation

The Office is headed by the Chief Appeals Officer who, as Director of the Office, has overall responsibility for the administration of the appeals service.

There is also a Deputy Chief Appeals Officer and an Office Manager who is responsible for administrative operations.

The Chief Appeals Officer, Deputy Chief Appeals Officer and Appeals Officers are appointed by the Minister for Social Protection in accordance with statutory provisions.

An organisation chart of the Office is at Appendix C.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office is based in D'Olier House, D'Olier Street, Dublin 2.

2.4 Structure

The Office has two distinct facets which combine to provide the appeals process the statutory determining function of the Appeals Officers and the administrative procedures which support the exercise of that function.

2.4.1 Appeals Officers

Appeals Officers are administrative tribunals exercising their functions in a quasi-judicial manner.

The Supreme Court [McLoughlin v. Minister for Social Welfare, (1958) I.R.5] has ruled that the duty of an Appeals Officer

"is laid upon him by the Oireachtas and he is required to perform it as between the parties that appear before him freely and fairly as becomes anyone who is called upon to decide on matters of right or obligation".

In that same judgement the Court also ruled that Appeals Officers

"are, ...and are required to be, free and unrestricted in discharging their functions under the Act".

2.4.2 Administration

The administrative arm of the Office provides the ancillary administrative services for appellants and other persons involved in the appeals system.

A computer system (containing limited identifying personal details) is used to keep track of appeals through the various stages of the appeals process.

2.5 Delivery of service

As mentioned above, the Office is concerned with the processing of appeals against decisions made by Deciding Officers/Designated Persons of the Department.

Every person who receives such an adverse decision is advised as a matter of course in the notification of the decision of the right of appeal.

A fuller description of the procedures, statutory and otherwise, involved in the appeals process is set out in Part 2 of this manual.

PART 2 - RULES AND PRACTICES OF THE OFFICE

3. APPEALS PROCEDURES

The procedures followed in processing an appeal are outlined in this section of the manual.

The statutory procedures are provided for in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 and/or the Social Welfare (Appeals) Regulations, 1998. References to "Sections" in the following are to provisions of the Act and references to "Articles" are to provisions of the Regulations.

3.1 Making an Appeal

3.1.1 Notification of appeal

In the case of a decision made by a Deciding Officer/Designated Person of the Department, any person who is dissatisfied with that decision may, by giving notice of appeal to the Chief Appeals Officer within the statutory time limit, have the question referred to an Appeals Officer for determination (Section 311). The Section is interpreted as applying to persons with a material interest in the decision.

While the statutory notice of appeal is to the Chief Appeals Officer, in practice it may be sent either directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office or it may be handed in to any office of the Department of Social Protection for transmission to the Office.

A person making an appeal is entitled to know fully the basis on which the initial claim was disallowed.

There is no charge for making an appeal.

3.1.2 Time for making an appeal

The notice of appeal must be made within 21 days of the notification of the Deciding Officer's decision (Section 311 and Article 9) but notice of appeal made after that period may be accepted with the approval of the Chief Appeals Officer (Article 9).

In exercising discretion under this provision, factors to which the Chief Appeals Officer would have regard would include the reasons for the delay, the length of the delay (the longer the delay the more cogent should be the reason for the delay), the question at issue, the prospects of success and the interests of justice.

3.1.3 Content of appeal

The notice of appeal must contain a statement of the facts and contentions upon which the appellant intends to rely (Article 9). The statutory procedures require that the notice of appeal be accompanied by whatever documentary evidence the appellant wishes to submit in support of the appeal. In practice, however, documentary evidence submitted subsequent to the notice of appeal will be considered by the Appeals Officer.

3.1.4 Acknowledgement of appeal

Every notice of appeal received in the Office is acknowledged and a leaflet containing an introductory guide to the appeals system is enclosed with the acknowledgement.

The appeal is recorded on a computerised register of appeals which is then used for monitoring the appeal through the appeals process.

3.1.5 Withdrawal of appeal

A person may withdraw the appeal at any stage by giving notice in writing to the Chief Appeals Officer (Article 9), but in practice, notice of intention to withdraw an appeal will be accepted by telephone or personal call. An appeal may be deemed to be withdrawn where the indications are that the appellant is no longer interested in pursuing the appeal and so the appeal has effectively been abandoned.

3.2 Predetermination Procedures

3.2.1 Submission by Department

In the case of an appeal against the decision of a Deciding Officer/Designated Person, the Chief Appeals Officer is obliged to notify the Minister of the appeal. The Minister must then furnish to the Chief Appeals Officer a statement, by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer, showing to what extent the facts and contentions advanced in the grounds of appeal are admitted or disputed. Any information, document or item in the power or control of the Deciding Officer that is relevant to the appeal must also be furnished (Article 10).

In fulfilling this statutory requirement, the Department may undertake further investigation of any new facts or evidence arising from the appeal, for instance by a Social Welfare Inspector. In the case of a claim to a sickness or disability related payment, the Department may arrange a further examination by a Medical Assessor.

It is open to the Deciding Officer/Designated Person of the Department at this stage to make a revised decision on the question at issue but only if such a revised decision would be in favour of the appellant (Section 301). Where a revised decision is made at this stage, effect is given to it by the Department and the appeal is thereby resolved.

If a revised decision by the Deciding Officer/Designated Person is not possible, the papers are submitted to the Chief Appeals Officer for referral to an Appeals Officer for determination. An appellant will be advised of any additional evidence adverse to his/her case which arises from such further investigation and will be afforded an opportunity to comment on it.

3.2.2 Notice to concerned persons

Notice that an appeal has been submitted is issued to any other person who appears to be concerned, i.e. a person with a material interest in the case (Article 11). The calling of witnesses who might be in a position to furnish evidence in relation to the matter to be determined is a function of the Appeals Officer paragraphs 3.3.4 and 3.3.7 below.

3.2.3 Referral of appeal to Appeals Officer

On receipt of a submission from the Department, the question at issue is referred to an Appeals Officer (Section 257 or 257A) for determination and the appellant is so informed.

3.2.4 Alternate reference to Courts

The Chief Appeals Officer may, where s/he considers it appropriate, refer the appeal to the High Court for decision. This procedure has not been used to date but it is envisaged that its use would be confined to appeals where complex points of law would be involved (Section 306).

It is, also, open to the Chief Appeals Officer to certify that the ordinary appeals procedures are inadequate to secure the effective processing of an appeal and to direct that the appellant submit the appeal to the Circuit Court for determination (Section 307). In practice this procedure is confined to appeals where special arrangements might need to be made for the anonymity of witnesses at an oral hearing.

3.3 Appeals Procedures relating to determining appeals

3.3.1 Request for further information

An Appeals Officer to whom an appeal is referred may request any person concerned to furnish further particulars with respect to the appeal and may allow amendment of the notice of appeal and of any statements made (Article 12).

3.3.2 Summary procedures or oral hearing

Where the Appeals Officer is of the opinion that the appeal can be determined on the basis of the documentary evidence and without the need for an oral hearing s/he may determine the appeal summarily (Article 13).

Where the Appeals Officer considers that an oral hearing is required to determine the question at issue, s/he will arrange for an oral hearing of the appeal (Article 14).

The circumstances in which an oral hearing is required are not specified in legislation. In Kiely v. Minister for Social Welfare (Supreme Court 1977 l.R. 267) the Court stated that

"An appeal is of such a nature that it can be determined summarily if a determination of the claim can fairly be made on a consideration of the documentary evidence. If, however, there are unresolved conflicts in the documentary evidence, as to any matter essential to a ruling of the claim, the intention of the Regulations is that those conflicts be resolved by an oral hearing".

More recently [Galvin v. the Chief Appeals Officer and the Minister for Social Welfare, High Court 1997 3 l.R 240] the High Court stated

"There are no hard and fast rules to guide an Appeals Officer or, on an application for judicial review, this court, as to when the dictates of fairness require the holding of an oral hearing. The case (like others) must be decided on the circumstances pertaining, the nature of the inquiry being undertaken by the decision-maker, the rules under which the decision-maker is acting and the subject matter with which he is dealing and account should also be taken as to whether an oral hearing was requested."

In practice an Appeals Officer will arrange an oral hearing in cases where there is conflict in the evidence presented by both parties or whenever a hearing is requested to enable the appellant to present his/her case adequately. An oral hearing would also invariably be held where the decision at issue has resulted in an overpayment of social welfare payment repayable by the appellant.

3.3.3 Venue for oral hearing

Where an oral hearing of an appeal is considered necessary, the appellant is so notified and is sent a copy of the leaflet "A guide to appeal hearings". Arrangements are made to hold the hearing as soon as possible. Where the volume of appeals due for hearings is such that an early hearing may not be possible, the person is notified of the possible delay.

In the Dublin area appeals are heard in the Social Welfare Appeals Office in D'Olier House. Outside Dublin, the hearing is arranged at a venue convenient to the appellant.

Timely notices are sent to all parties concerned.

3.3.4 Attendance at oral hearing

The appellant will ordinarily appear at the oral hearing in person and may be accompanied by a member of his/her family or, with the consent of the Appeals Officer, by any other person.

An appellant may also be professionally represented if s/he so wishes.

Also present at the oral hearing may be the Deciding Officer/Designated Person who made the decision or they may be represented by another officer of the Minister. Any other person whom the Appeals Officer considers should be heard may also attend (Article 15).

3.3.5 Payment of Expenses

If a person has to travel to attend the hearing, the Appeals Officer will arrange reimbursement for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses and compensation for any loss of earnings (Section 316).

The costs of professional representation at an oral hearing are not paid. However, the Appeals Officer may make an award in regard to such representation but only in respect of the representative's actual attendance at the oral hearing (Section 316).

3.3.6 Format of oral hearing

Oral hearings are held in private and the aim is to keep the proceedings as informal as possible. However, the Appeals Officer may, if s/he thinks it appropriate, take evidence on oath and administer oaths to persons attending as witnesses at the hearing (Section 313).

The Appeals Officer will begin the hearing by introducing him/herself and all other persons present. S/he will also indicate if there are other persons whom it is intended to call to give evidence in the course of the hearing. The Appeals Officer will then outline the Deciding Officer's decision against which the appeal is being made, the grounds of the appeal and the Department's response to these grounds. Evidence will be taken from any witnesses.

At the hearing the appellant is afforded every opportunity to set out his/her case and to question any evidence offered by witnesses. Alternatively, his/her representative, should s/he have one, may do this on his/her behalf.

In a minority of cases the Appeals Officer may be compelled to postpone or adjourn the hearing. This might be necessary if, for example, a crucial witness is not available or some additional evidence requiring further investigation is introduced at the hearing. In other cases the Appeals Officer may agree to defer consideration of the appeal to give the appellant the opportunity of obtaining some further evidence in support of his/her case e.g. a Medical Consultant's report.

3.3.7 Failure to attend an oral hearing

Where a person fails to attend an oral hearing, the Appeals Officer may take such steps as s/he considers appropriate to determine the appeal (Article 17).

An Appeals Officer may, by giving notice in writing, require a person to attend an oral hearing and to produce any relevant documents. A person failing to comply with such a notice is guilty of an offence and, on summary conviction, may be fined up to €1,500 (Section 314). This provision has been availed of to require witnesses to attend to give evidence on the question being determined.

3.4 Post-determination appeal procedures

3.4.1 Decision of Appeals Officer

Following his/her consideration of the appeal, including evidence adduced at the oral hearing, the Appeals Officer will normally be in a position to make a decision within 2/3 weeks of the hearing.

The decision of the Appeals Officer will be in writing and, where the decision is not in favour of the appellant, will include a note on the reasons for the decision (Article 19).

3.4.2 Notification of decision

A notification of the decision and, in the case of an unfavourable decision the accompanying note of reasons, will be sent to the appellant and any other person concerned (Article 19). The relevant papers are returned to the Department or Health Service Executive as appropriate at that stage for any necessary action in relation to the decision.

4. DECISION-MAKING BY APPEALS OFFICERS

4.1 Question for consideration

The question before the Appeals Officer for determination is the same question as was before the Deciding Officer/Designated Person who made the initial decision. The Appeals Officer is not confined to the grounds on which the initial decision was based and s/he may consider the question as if it were being determined for the first time (Section 311). In practice, the appeal will be concerned with the grounds for the initial unfavourable decision and an appellant will not be required to defend a possible failure to satisfy some other condition relating to the payment claimed.

4.2 Evidence to be considered

In considering the question at issue, the Appeals Officer will have regard to all relevant evidence including the documentary material. This material may include reports of Departmental Investigating Officers and, where appropriate, Medical Assessors, the grounds of appeal including any documentation submitted with it and the submission by or on behalf of the officer who made the decision. Other documentary evidence could consist of correspondence from an employer as to the occurrence of an occupational accident or in regard to how a person's employment terminated. As well as that, the Appeals Officer will also have regard to any facts emerging from the presentation of evidence at the oral hearing.

4.3 Application of legislation

The conditions underlying entitlement to benefit are contained in provisions of social welfare legislation [the Social Welfare Acts and Regulations made thereunder] and the Appeals Officer must apply this legislation to his/her findings of the facts in determining the question under appeal. Some issues may involve the application of other legislation or case law - such as whether a divorce might be recognised as valid or whether the conditions of an employment are as an employee or self-employed person.

Case law used consists of Irish Courts judgements and of decisions by other courts acknowledged in Irish courts judgements.

4.4 Statutory interpretations

Some appeals may involve issues which had not hitherto arisen and the decisions of Appeals Officers in those cases may provide guidance were the same issues to arise again, subject, of course, to the merits of individual cases.

The (published) annual report of the Chief Appeals Officer to the Minister contains summaries of cases determined by Appeals Officers, which the Chief Appeals Officer considers would be helpful in construing particular aspects of legislation or in making findings of facts based on particular circumstances.

The manual prepared by the Department of Social Protection under section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, as well as outlining the conditions specified in statute governing entitlement to benefits, also contains details and guidelines of how discretionary provisions are applied, including interpretations arising from earlier decisions of Appeals Officers which might have general application to similar type cases arising thereafter.

5. REVIEW OF DECISIONS

5.1 Revision by an Appeals Officer or by Chief Appeals Officer

A decision of an Appeals Officer may be revised by an Appeals Officer in the light of new facts or new evidence brought to attention or if there has been a relevant change of circumstances since the decision was given (Section 317).

A decision of an Appeals Officer may also be revised by the Chief Appeals Officer if it appears to her/him that the decision was erroneous by reason of a mistake as to the facts or the law (Section 318).

In either case, the person concerned should submit a written statement of the grounds on which a review of the decision is sought. In all procedures, principles of natural justice are fully adhered to and, if such a review would have a material interest for some other person concerned, such other person would have to be afforded an opportunity to comment.

5.2 Review by Courts

The decision of an Appeals Officer is in general final and conclusive (Section 320), subject to appeal to the High Court on a point of law or review as described above.

It is also open to any appellant to seek a judicial review of a decision in the Courts if s/he feels that a decision is deficient for want of fairness of procedure. The courts, however, will not generally disturb a decision unless it is "plainly and unambiguously flying in the face of fundamental reason and common sense", the criterion laid down by the Supreme Court in The State (Keegan) v. Stardust Compensation Tribunal 1986 l.R. 642 as the test by which the reasonableness of decisions of tribunals are judged.

In 1995 in the context of consideration of a decision of an Appeals Officer which was the subject of an appeal to the High Court, that Court, in upholding the decision of the Appeals Officer, stated -

"The decision reached depends on the importance which the Appeals Officer attached to some facts. This was a balancing operation which is essentially a matter of degree and his conclusions should not be disturbed unless they are such that no reasonable person could draw them. In my opinion the Appellants have not shown that the conclusions drawn by the Appeals Officer are ones which no reasonable person could draw and neither have they shown that they were based on a mistaken view of the law."

In an appeal against that judgement, the Supreme Court (Hamilton, CJ) in upholding the decision stated that

"..it would be desirable to take this opportunity of expressing the view that the Courts should be slow to interfere with the decisions of expert administrative tribunals. Where conclusions are based on an identifiable error of law or an unsustainable finding of fact by a tribunal such conclusions must be corrected. Otherwise it should be recognised that tribunals which have been given statutory tasks to perform and exercise their functions, as is now usually the case with a high degree of expertise and provide coherent and balanced judgements on the evidence and arguments heard by them it should not be necessary for the courts to review their decisions by way of appeal or judicial review."

[Henry Denny & Sons (Ireland) Limited T/A Kerry Foods v. Minister for Social Welfare

(1998 1 l.R. 34]

PART 3 - HOW TO GET INFORMATION

6. HOW TO GET INFORMATION

6.1 Routinely Available Information

The Department of Social Protection currently makes information routinely available to the public in relation to its functions, activities and schemes.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office, which is an independent office of the Department and is a separate public body for the purposes of the Act, similarly makes information available on its functions and activities in its annual report and leaflets. Such information will continue to be available informally without the need to use the FOI Act.

The FOI Act is designed to allow public access to information held by public bodies which is NOT routinely available through other sources. Access to information under the Act is subject to certain exemptions and involves specific procedures and time limits. This Part of the guide explains how you can obtain information from the Appeals Office under the Act.

6.2 Classes of records held

The following classes of records are held in the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Internal administration:

Records in this category involve the day to day management of the Office. Information held in this area can include subjects such as organisation of training courses, allocation of leave, provision of accommodation for staff, provision of other resources such as office machinery and supplies, circulation of information documents, publication of annual report, etc.

Appeals administration:

Records in this category involve the day to day administration of the appeals system. Information held in this area can include such subjects as procedures on the submission of documentary evidence, statistical material on appeals etc.

Appeals legislation:

The records include Acts and Regulations, relevant Court judgements, legal advice on specific issues, etc.

Policy:

This includes information held on the formulation of policy or legislation. Information held would include briefing material and correspondence on proposed legislative changes.

Personal records:

Records in this category include a computerised tracking system containing limited personal information for monitoring appeals, correspondence relating to appeals and reviews of appeals, copies of decisions, etc. Most of the personal information relating to the appeal will be on the file held by the Department of Social Protection .

6.3 Application under the FOI Act

6.3.1 Statutory rights

Under the FOI Act, anyone is entitled to apply for access to information not otherwise publicly available. Each person has a right to:

6.3.2 Records covered by the Act

The following records come within the scope of the Act:

6.3.3 Where to send your request

Applications for information under the FOI Act should be addressed to:

Freedom of Information Officer

Social Welfare Appeals Office

D'Olier House

D'Olier Street

Dublin 2

Telephone: Locall 1890 74 74 34 Monday to Friday, 10am to 12.30pm and 2.30pm to 4pm
Fax: 01-6718391

E-mail: swappeals@welfare.ie

Applications should be in writing and should indicate that the information is sought under the Freedom of Information Act. Please give as much detail as possible to enable the staff of the Office to identify the record. If you have difficulty in identifying the precise records which you require, the staff of the Office will be happy to assist you in preparing your request.

6.3.4 Decisions within 4 weeks

The Office is obliged to respond to the request within 4 weeks. However, the Freedom of Information legislation provides for an extension of this time, if neccessary.

6.4 Fees

There are basically two types of charges that apply under the FOI Act:

6.4.1 Upfront fees

Such fees only apply to requests for access to non-personal records. A fee of €15 must accompany a request for records other than records containing only personal information relating to oneself. A reduced fee of €10 applies in relation to such a request if you are covered by a medical card. Neither fee applies if the request is for personal information relating to oneself only.

In the case of requests for non-personal records, there are also fees applicable in relation to internal review and appeals to the Information Commissioner. Further details included at 6.5.1 and 6.5.2 below.

6.4.2 Search and Retrieval / Photocopying fees:

No fee will be charged in respect of personal records, either for the search and retrieval of records or for photocopying, except where a large number of records is involved.

In respect of other (non-personal) information, fees may be charged in respect of the time spent in locating and copying records, based on a standard hourly rate (€20.95 per hour). No charges may apply in respect of the time spent by the Department in considering requests.

A deposit may be payable where the total fee for search and retrieval is likely to exceed €50.79.

In these circumstances, the Department will notify you and if requested, assist you in amending the request so as to reduce or eliminate the amount of the fee.

6.5 Rights of Review and Appeal

The Act sets out a series of exemptions to protect sensitive information where its disclosure may damage key interests of the State or of third parties. Where a Department/Office invokes these provisions to withhold information, the decision may be appealed. Decisions in relation to deferral of access, charges, forms of access, etc. may also be the subject of appeal.

Details of the appeals mechanisms are set out in the following paragraphs.

6.5.1 Internal Review

You may seek internal review of the initial decision on your request for information under the Act which will be carried out by an official at a higher level if

Requests for internal review should be submitted in writing to:

FOI Reviewing Officer
Social Welfare Appeals Office
D'Olier House
D'Olier Street
Dublin 2

Telephone: Locall 1890 74 74 34 Monday to Friday, 10am to 12.30pm and 2.30pm to 4pm
Fax: 01-6718391

E-mail: swappeals@welfare.ie

Such a request for internal review must be submitted within 4 weeks of the initial decision. The Office must complete the review within 3 weeks. Internal review must normally be completed before an appeal may be made to the Information Commissioner.

There is no upfront fee for a request for a review in relation to personal records. However, a fee of €75 must accompany most applications for internal review of a decision in relation to non-personal records. A reduced fee of €25 applies if you are covered by a medical card. There is no fee payable for cases where a review is sought due to the non-reply of the initial request.

6.5.2 Review by the Commissioner

Following completion of internal review, you may seek an independent review of the decision from the Information Commissioner. Also, if you have not received a reply to your application for internal review within 3 weeks, this is deemed to be a refusal and you may appeal the matter to the Commissioner.

Appeals in writing may be made directly to the Information Commissioner at the following address:

Office of the Information Commissioner

18 Lower Leeson Street

Dublin 2.

Phone: 01-6395689 LoCall 1890 22 30 30

Fax: 01-6395674

foi@ombudsman.irlgov.ie

There is no upfront fee for a request for an appeal in relation to personal records. However, a fee of €150 must accompany most applications for review by the Information Commissioner in relation to non-personal records. A reduced fee of €50 applies if you are covered by a medical card. There is no fee payable for cases where an appeal is being sought due to the non-reply of the internal review request .

APPENDIX A

A Glossary of Terms

Administrative (quasi-judicial) tribunal:

Used to denote a tribunal which is outside the hierarchy of the courts and exercises a jurisdiction which is conferred by statute. Article 37 of the Constitution of Ireland enables the enactment of legislation to provide for the exercise of limited functions and powers of a judicial nature, in matters other than criminal matters, to a person or body not a judge or court appointed or established under the Constitution.

Appeal:

A request by a person to have a decision of a Deciding Officer or an officer of a Health Service Executive considered afresh and determined by an Appeals Officer.

Appeals Officer:

An Appeals Officer is an Officer in the Social Welfare Appeals Office who is appointed under legislation by the Minister to determine appeals.

Assessor:

An assessor is a person appointed by the Chief Appeals Officer to attend an oral hearing and provide information to the hearing on the question under appeal. Typically, in an appeal relating to unemployment payments, an assessor would be appointed to provide information on the employment situation in a region.

Deciding Officer:

A Deciding Officer is an officer in the Department who is authorised by law to make decisions on entitlement to benefit and insurability of employment.

Documentary evidence:

The documents, including all correspondence and reports, which are relevant to the question under appeal.

Entitlement to benefit:

To be entitled to benefit a person must fulfil such conditions as are set out in the legislation governing the particular scheme.

Insurability of employment:

The question here considers the nature of the employment and the appropriate (PRSI) contribution class payable.

Oral hearing:

A hearing of an appeal before an Appeals Officer at which the appellant may present his/her case in person and question any witnesses whose evidence may be relevant to the matter to be decided.

Question under appeal:

This is the subject matter of the appeal which the appellant is contesting, typically whether or not a person is entitled to a social welfare payment.

Statutory:

Relates to conditions, powers or procedures which are provided for in legislation.

Summary decision:

A summary decision is a decision made by an Appeals Officer on the basis of documentary evidence available without the need for an oral hearing.

APPENDIX B

B Jurisdiction of Appeals Process

Social Insurance

Insurability of employment (including self-employment)

Employment in insurable employment

Rate of employment contribution payable

Entitlement to become a voluntary contributor

Unemployment schemes

Jobseeker's Benefit

Jobseeker's Allowance

Families and income support

Child Benefit

Family Income Supplement

Farm/ Fish Assist

Maternity Benefit

Health and Safety Benefit

Adoptive Benefit

Carer's Allowance

Carer's Benefit

Domicillary Care Allowance

One-Parent Family Payment (including Deserted Wife's

Allowance and Prisoner's Wife's Allowance)

Deserted Wife's Benefit

Widow's/Widower's contributory pension

Guardian's Payment (Contributory)

Guardian's Payment (Non-Contributory)

Sickness and incapacity

Illness Benefit

Invalidity Pension

Partial Capacity Benefit

Blind Person's Pension

Disability Allowance

Occupational Injuries Benefit

Injury Benefit

Disablement Benefit

Incapacity Supplement

Constant Attendance Allowance

Death Benefit (Pensions for widows, widowers, orphans, parents and funeral expenses)

Elderly or retired

State Pension (Contributory)

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

State Pension (Transition)

Pre-Retirement Allowance

Other appellable issues

Treatment Benefit

Bereavement Grant

Rent Allowance (Private Rented Dwellings Act)

Living Alone Allowance

Homemakers

Continued Payment for Qualified Children

Continued payment after death in the family

Widowed Parent Grant

Contribution by Liable Relative

Delay in payment - loss of purchasing power

Backdating of payments

Habitual Residence

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

Entitlement to basic allowance

Supplement, including Rent and Mortgage

Some Schemes not covered by the Appeals Process

Area Based incentives

Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance

Back-to-Work Schemes

Bottled/Natural Gas Allowances

Butter Vouchers

Community Development Programme

Credits (Award of)

Free Electricity Allowance

Free Telephone Rental Allowance

Free Travel Scheme

Free TV Licence Allowance

Fuel Allowance

Job Facilitation Programme

Household budgeting

Occupational Injuries Benefit Medical Care

Overpayment (recovery under Code of Practice)

Part-time Job Incentive

PRSI exemption

School Meals

Second Level Allowance

Signing arrangements to prove unemployment

Smokeless Fuel Allowance

Student Summer Jobs

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Exceptional Needs Payments

Third Level Allowance

Voluntary/Community Welfare Services

VTOS (Department of Education and Science)

 

APPENDIX C

Social Welfare Appeals Office Organisation Chart.

To view an Organisation Chart of the Social Welfare Appeals Office click ' HERE'


Text version of Office Staff Structure

 

Director and Chief Appeals Officer: Geraldine Gleeson

Deputy Chief Appeals Officer: Cathy Barron

Secretariat:

Office Manager: vacant

Higher Excutive Officers: Bernadette Carty, Bernie Mc Cormick, Mark O'Connor

Appeals Officers: Aidan Reddy, Helen Bannon, Joe Bennett, Seamas Bradley, John Carey, Fiona Casey, Donal Conlon, John Considine, John Deegan, Michael Duffy, Tony Fennessy, Marion Foley, Mairead Gaffney, Marie Gallagher, Sean Gaughan, Bridget Goulding, Jennifer Graham, Daniel Harty, Helen Hayes, Maggie Jardine, Seamus Keena, John Kelly, Marie Kennedy, Tina Kennedy, Michael Lennon, Siobhan Logan, Tom McArdle, Colm Mc Dermott, Brendan Mc Keever, Anne Moloney, Gerard Neenan, Nick Nolan, Denis O'Brien, Brendan O'Leary, John Patton, Ger Power, James Sadlier, Michael Smith, James Squires.

End of Document

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