Social Welfare Appeal G0088

This case relates to the appeal of a decision to retrospectively charge the Appellant for an alleged overpayment of Rent Supplement, due to the retrospective assessment of a contribution from another person in the household, the Appellant’s daughter. This decision was made pursuant to Article 12(3) of the Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) Regulations 2007 (as amended), S.I. 412 of 2007.  The Appellant, a Carer, resides with his two daughters and had been claiming Rent Supplement since February 2013.

The Appellant’s Rent Supplement claim was reviewed in June 2016, and a revised decision was issued on 25 July 2016, notifying the Appellant that a Designated Officer (DO) had determined that his entitlement would be reduced and that this decision was to apply retrospectively. As a consequence of this decision, the Appellant was found to have been overpaid the sum of €1,091.70, an amount recoverable as a debt due to the Department of Social Protection (the Department).

Rent Supplement-Supplementary Welfare Allowance- Non-financially dependent child – Overpayment of Rent Supplement -Retrospective assessment- Appeal partially allowed

Social Welfare Appeal G0084

This case relates to a review of the Appellant’s entitlement to Child Benefit payable in respect of her daughter, aged 17.  The Appellant had been in receipt of Child Benefit since 1999. In January 2016, following an application for Child Benefit by another family member, the Appellant’s entitlement was reviewed.

On 20.1.2016 the Appellant was informed by letter that “Child Benefit Section has been advised that your child ****** left your household and no longer resides with you”. The Appellant was further advised that if this was the case, she was no longer entitled to be in receipt of Child Benefit in respect of her daughter. The Appellant was provided with an opportunity to comment on the Department of Social Protection’s (DSP) assertion, and submit  “any facts or circumstances ”relevant to the matter at issue before a decision was made.

Social Welfare Appeal G0085

This case relates to the decision by a Deciding Officer (DO) to assess the Appellant as though one of a couple for the purpose of his Jobseekers Allowance (JA) claim, despite his declaration that he is a separated single man.

The Appellant asserted that he separated from his wife, Ms.X, in or around 2000, but did not leave the family home for financial reasons.  The Appellant and Ms.X, though separated, continue to reside in the same house, which they jointly own.  They did not obtain a legal separation.  During previous periods of unemployment following his separation the Appellant had been assessed as a single person for JA purposes.

At the end of May 2016, the Appellant ceased employment and made a claim for JA. When making his application he declared that he was separated, and he provided information with respect to other members of the household, including his wife, Ms. X.  On 1st June 2016 JA was awarded to the Appellant at the rate of €188 per week, the amount payable in respect of a single person .  After awarding the payment, the Appellant’s claim was referred to a Social Welfare Inspector (SWI) for investigation, and the Appellant was interviewed on 16th June 2016. The SWI requested that the Appellant submit evidence of his wife’s earnings despite his assertion that he was a separated man.  On receipt of this evidence, means of €305 from Ms. X’s employment were assessed against the Appellant’s claim, and a decision was made to reduce his JA to €7.80 per week. This decision took effect from 22nd June 2016. In making this decision, the DO made a finding that the Appellant was one of a couple, that the Appellant had not established that he was separated from his wife.

Shortly after receiving the decision of the DO, the Appellant submitted Notice of Appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office, together with a letter from the Legal Aid Board confirming that he had made an appointment with respect to commencing separation proceedingsThe Appellant then sought the assistance of CLM. CLM sought the release of documents held by the Department of Social Protection under the Freedom of Information Act 2014.

The Department of Social Protection (DSP) referred the matter to another SWI for further review following the Appellant’s submission of his Notice of Appeal. On 28 July 2016 a SWI made an un-notified call to the Appellant’s home. According to the “Means Reporting Form” completed by the SWI on that date, the Appellant’s status was recorded as “married – but separated the last 15 years”.  The report also confirmed that the Appellant and his wife jointly own the property in which they live.

The SWI in her report, of 29 July 2016, noted:

“ [w]hile there did appear  to be bedding on the kitchen table , there was no evidence of any disarray that would result in 2 people sleeping downstairs  and 2 adults and 2 children sleeping upstairs in a 2 bedroomed house…Though Mr… does appear to be now proceeding legally with separation, they are both living under the one roof and I cannot rule out cohabitationI recommend that the means applied to the client’s claim continues and that he be advised of his right to appeal that decision.”

The SWI did not interview the Appellant’s wife, Ms. X.

CLM made a written submission setting out legal arguments, and on 7 December 2016, CLM represented the Appellant at an oral hearing. In addition to the written submission, affidavits attesting to the relevant facts were submitted from the Appellant, his wife, and his sister.

On 20 December 2016, the Appeals Officer allowed the appeal

Social Welfare Appeal G0078

The case concerns an overpayment of the One Parent Family Payment (OPFP).

The Appellant was awarded the OPFP in 1995 (or Lone Parent’s Allowance as it then was), following separation from her husband. From 1996-1999 the Appellant worked on a Community Employment (CE) scheme. In August, 1999, the Appellant commenced full time employment.  The DSP were not aware of this change in her circumstances until an investigation into her claim was carried out in 2003. A revised decision was issued in 2004 (the 2004 Decision) in accordance with sections 248 and 249 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 1993 (the 1993 Act).[1] The DSP asserted that the Appellant’s means exceeded the relevant statutory limit during the period April 1999 to August 2003; that is, due to the increase in her income, the Appellant ceased to be entitled to the OPFP. As a consequence of this revised decision, an overpayment in the amount of €20,153.56 was assessed as a debt due to be repaid to the DSP.  The Appellant did not appeal the 2004 Decision or make any repayment in respect of her debt liability.

Social Welfare Appeal G0086

This case relates to the decision by a Deciding Officer in November 2015 to stop payment of the Appellant’s Carer’s Allowance for the reason that he was no longer providing full time care for his wife, ‘the Caree’. The Deciding Officer’s decision was grounded in a report submitted by the Social Welfare Inspector (SWI), and a written statement submitted by the Appellant in which he advised that he was unable to care for his wife. The Appellant had been in receipt of Carers Allowance from April 2010 – November 2015.  There was no dispute with respect to the Caree’s on-going need for full time care; she was in receipt of Invalidity Pension, and suffered from multiple sclerosis and was prone to epileptic seizures.

Social Welfare Appeal G0083

This case relates to an application by the Appellant for Family Income Supplement.  The appellant had been employed and was awarded FIS in August 2012. This payment was renewed for 52 week periods in accordance with governing legislation and on 6 August 2015 a renewal for a further 52 weeks was approved.  On 16 October 2015 the appellant lost his job. He applied for Jobseekers Benefit which he received.  He then secured a new job on 9 November 2015 and made a new application for FIS in respect of his new employment.

The Appellant’s application was refused. The Deciding Officer (DO) considered that the appellants’ previous FIS claim was still in existence: “FIS is a 52 week payment so once it is approved the rate remains the same for the 52 weeks…Your current FIS claim is due to expire on 24/08/2016.”

The Appellant sought help from MABS who requested that the Deciding Officer review and revise her decision on the grounds that the DO had effectively linked two separate FIS claims. The DO wrote to MABs on 6 January 2016 reaffirming her decision. On 12 January 2016, the Appellant appealed the DO’s decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) on the grounds that as his entitlement to FIS ceased when his employment ended, his new application should have been assessed as an entirely new claim.

By way of summary decision dated 22 March 2016 the Appeals Officer denied the appeal on the basis that the appellant’s claim for renewal of his FIS payment in August 2015, in respect of his former job, was connected to his application for FIS in relation to his employment in November therefore once awarded, the FIS rate payable remains the same for the 52 week period so the appellant would have to wait until August 2016 to secure an increase on his payment.

On 1 September 2016 Cork MABS requested a review of the Appeals Officer’s decision in accordance with section 318 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 as amended on the basis that the Appeals Officer erred in law and in fact in failing to consider the appellant’s new application for FIS in November 2015.

Social Welfare Appeal G0103

This case relates to a review of a decision by the Department of Social Protection (the Department) to disallow the Appellant supplementary welfare allowance in the form of rent supplement.

Social Welfare Appeal G0082

This case relates to an application by the Appellant for Carer’s Allowance (half rate) in order to care for his wife. The Appellant’s wife was 57 years of age and had a diagnosis of Recurrent Psychotic Depression.

The Appellant applied for Carer’s Allowance in 2015. The Appellant’s application was refused. On Part 10 of the application form, the Doctor certified that the Appellant’s wife was moderately affected by her condition. The Deciding Officer (DO) considered that the Appellant’s wife was not so invalided or disabled as to require full time care and attention. The Appellant appealed the DO’s decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO). The Appeals Officer denied the appeal, following an oral hearing; on the basis that it had not been shown that the Appellant’s wife required full-time care and attention.

The Appellant sought assistance from MABS. In May/June 2016 MABS requested a review of the Appeal Officer’s decision pursuant to section 318 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (the 2005 Act).  In submitting grounds for review, MABS asserted that the Appeals Officer had not demonstrated that appropriate evidential weight had been attributed to the Appellant’s written and oral testimony as to facts of his wife’s care needs. As a consequence it was asserted that the Appeals Officer’s reasoning was flawed to the extent that he had erred in fact and law.