Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs and Social Protection John Brady TD has raised concerns at serious failures within the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, as highlighted in the Ombudsman’s report published today.
Teachta Brady said:
“The Ombudsman’s report published today makes for stark reading when it comes to the practices undertaken by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
“For a Department so concerned with combatting welfare fraud, it is interesting to note that the Ombudsman’s main concern in his report is overpayments made due to errors made by the Department’s own staff rather than fraudulent behaviour on behalf of recipients.
“The report shows that between the years 2015 and 2018, 108 complaints were received by the Ombudsman from people unhappy with how the Department was pursuing overpayments. Of these 108 complaints, 45% were upheld.
“Most alarmingly, the Ombudsman found that the Department had seriously mishandled a number of cases where the social welfare recipient owed a debt to the Department. This included cases where the recipient was not informed that they had been overpaid and therefore owed the Department money, with some people not becoming aware of such debt until they came to claim their State Pension.
“The Ombudsman has also raised concerns about the lack of poverty-proofing undertaken by the Department before applying the 15% deduction or in determining the level of repayments to be made. The report reminds the Department of their obligation to determine the circumstances of the individual concerned ahead of setting up repayment arrangements.
“Given that similar concerns regarding overpayments were raised by the Ombudsman in his report last year, Minister Regina Doherty needs to take the findings of this report seriously.
“I am calling on her to initiate an immediate review of practices in place by her Department when it comes to overpayments.”