Saoirse Brady is the Free Legal Advice Centers (FLAC) Policy and Advocacy Officer. Saoirse is responsible for FLAC’s policy work on social welfare law reform and is the author of One Size Doesn’t Fit All (2009), a legal analysis of the State’s direct provision and dispersal system for asylum seekers. Saoirse is also the author of the report Not Fair Enough, which makes the case for reform of the Social Welfare Appeals System.
FLAC’s report Not Fair Enough examines the operation of the Social Welfare Appeals Office and analyses it through a human rights lens to determine whether it complies with both domestic and international human rights standards. This report is published at a time when an ever increasing number of people are availing of social welfare payments and the workload of the Appeals Office is at a record high with more than 51,500 live appeals in 2011. In 2011, 42 per cent of decided appeals were successful.
The Appeals Office, established more than 20 years ago, is a vast improvement on the previous arrangement whereby unsuccessful social welfare applicants had to appeal directly to the Minister for Social Welfare. However, it still lacks the necessary independence to ensure full public confidence in the system as the Appeals Office is not an independent statutory body; it is in fact an office of the Department of Social Protection. Furthermore, Appeals Officers are civil servants usually from the same government department appointed by the Minister for Social Protection without any public appointment process. The fundamental right to social security is enshrined in a number of European and international instruments including the European Social Charter, the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as instruments designed to protect certain groups including women and children. A State does not Continue reading “FLAC: Making the Case for Reform of the Social Welfare Appeals System”