The deciding officers in the Department of Social Protection and superintendent community welfare officers adjudicate on applications for social welfare payments. The social welfare appeals office deals with social welfare appeal. The Health Service Executive operates a separate appeal in relation to supplementary welfare allowance.
The principles of administrative law apply in relation to decisions in social welfare cases. See our section on judicial review of decisions taken by public authorities. There is a right to fair procedures in relation to decisions and in particular, appeals. The right of fair procedures is required under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
This requires that the person knows the details on which the decision is based, is entitled to receive document et cetera, and is entitled for reasons for the decision. The decision maker must act on the basis of evidence. He must correctly interpret the legislation, taking into account relevant factors only. In some cases where there is question mark over the evidence, an oral hearing may be required.
Deciding officers in the Department of Social Protection make decisions in relation to entitlement and other key question. Certain minor decisions are not decided by deciding officers and are decided by routine administrative decisions. Computerised decision may apply in some cases.
The deciding officer must give a decision in writing. Where the decision is not in favour of the claimant, the reasons must be given. A deciding officer may revise the decision if the original decision is shown to be wrong in the light of new facts or a change in circumstances
An appealing may be made against a decision of a decision officer or a revision of a decision.
Fair procedures are required in relation to a decision to terminate a payment. The person should be given the grounds on which the decision is proposed to be made and given the opportunity to challenge the basis of the decision and make representations. This does not necessarily or usually require a oral hearing.
The social welfare appeals office is an independent agency. The chief appeals officer and appeal officers make decisions. They are appointed independently by the Minister for Social Protection .
An appeal may be taken against the decision of a deciding officer to the appeals officer. Notice of appeal must be given within a set period usually 21 days from the date of notification of the decision. A late appeal may be allowed with consent of the appeals office.
The notice of appeals should set out the basis and grounds for the appeal. Evidence proposed to be relied on should be submitted when available
The majority of appeals are heard orally, although the appeals officer has a discretion whether or not to allow an oral hearing. An oral hearing is mandatory unless the matter can be determined summarily without an oral hearing. This may arise where the matter can be determined on documentary evidence only.
In the case of certain types of appeal including ones involving jobseekers’ benefits and allowance, assessors, one nominated by trade unions and one by employer organisations, will also take part in the appeal. If either or both are not present, the appeal may proceed without them with the consent of the claimant. The assessor does not decide the appeal, but they assist the officer in relation to the knowledge of the relevant employment market.
At an oral hearing, the claimant may appear or may be represented by a member of the family or other person with a permission. The deciding officer or a representative may appear. The hearing is a complete rehearing of the matter. New grounds and circumstances may be taken account of.
Evidence may be required to be taken under oath. It is possible to summons witnesses. A person who fails to attend is guilty of an offence.
At conclusion of the appeal, the appeal officer sends his decision to the chief appeals officer who notifies the claimant and gives reasons for the decision.
An appeals officer may revise his decision if it can be shown that the original decision is erroneous in the light of new evidence or change of circumstances. The chief appeals officer may revise decisions if it appears that they are wrong due to an error in relation to the application of the law or the facts. This is not an appeal but rather a revision and there are no formal procedures for seeking such review. The chief appeals officer would generally only reconsider a decision which is patently wrong.
There is an appeal on a point of law from an appeal officer’s decision to the High Court. The courts will only interfere with the decisions on very narrow grounds. In accordance with the general provision in the EU, a court may refer a question of European law to the Court of Justice of the European Union in certain circumstances.
The 2010 Act removes the limitation on the scope of the appeals process and provides that the Minister has the power to appeal a decision of the Chief Appeals Officer to the High Court on a point of law.
The 2021 Act S. 17 provides for the appointment of more than one Deputy Chief Appeals Officer.