Ombudsman Peter Tyndall launching his annual report for 2016 in Dublin this morning
Ombudsman Peter Tyndall launched his annual report for 2016.
In it, he deals with the matter of complaints to his office from people in receipt of social welfare payments who’ve been notified that they were overpaid and that they owe the Department of Social Protection money.
In his report, Mr Tyndall writes:
During 2015 and 2016, I noticed an increase in the number of complaints to my Office from people who had been, or who were currently, in receipt of social welfare payments and who had received notice from the Department of Social Protection that they had been overpaid. The Department was demanding repayment from them.
The periods during which the overpayments accrued ranged from relatively recently to over 20 years ago. The amounts also ranged from €1,000 to over €100,000.
An examination of these complaints raised significant concerns so I decided to initiate a systemic examination of the Department’s processes in raising and collecting overpayment debts from claimants.
My Office examined local overpayment files held in two Dublin Intreo Offices. In October 2016, I sent a report of our findings to the Department for its consideration and response.
During 2016, my Office examined other individual complaints received from overpaid social welfare claimants. A total of 55 overpayment complaints have been examined. 25 have been finalised and closed. Of those closed, I upheld 15 (60%) and the overpayments were written off by the Department.
In one case study, Mr Tyndall explains how one woman, who was told she owed the Department of Social Protection €19,900, ended up receiving a €700 refund from the department.
Mr Tyndall writes:
A woman complained to the Ombudsman after she wrote to the local office of the Department of Social Protection and failed to receive a response. The woman had received correspondence from her local office saying that an overpayment of €19,900 had been made to her. The woman was unaware of how this debt arose and had written to the Department for an explanation.
The Ombudsman contacted the Department’s local office and asked it to respond to the woman’s correspondence. While responding to the Ombudsman the Department also reviewed the woman’s social welfare payments. It discovered that her application had not been processed correctly. The woman’s income had been recalculated a number of times resulting in different outcomes, while in considering her husband’s income the Department had failed to take account of an illness that reduced his income.
Following the review, Department discovered that not only had there been no overpayment but that the woman was entitled to a refund of approximately €700.
Read the report in full here
Earlier: How Many?