Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Norris disability allowance claim highlights a very loose system with scant oversight

It has been reported that Senator David Norris was the recipient of a disability allowance from the Department of Social Protection for a period of 16 years from the time he retired in 1994.  The payment was apparently equivalent to about a quarter of his salary.

The Norris episode highlights some underlying and far-reaching issues with respect to disability allowances. Total payments of disability allowances has increased from €332,208 in 2001 to €1,109,549 last year – an increase of 234%. The number of recipients during this period increased from 57,655 to 101,111 – an increase of 75%

During 2001, 9,663 recipients (just 17% of the total number of recipients) were scheduled for medical examination. Of these, 3,577 qualified for disability allowance; 3,016 did not qualify and 3,010 did not attend for medical evaluation.  It seems like a ‘suck it and see’ practice is prevalent with respect to disability allowances.

During 2010, only 512 medical examinations were scheduled. 107 persons qualified for disability allowance; 201 persons examined did not qualify and 204 persons did not attend for evaluation. An unascertainable number of recipients were ‘desk assessed’ rather than examined last year.

This trend would suggest that Senator Norris is not the only recipient of a disability allowance over a protracted period who could perhaps ‘not specify how much it was worth’.  This week I heard of a person who obtained a disability allowance when her wrist was fractured 15 years ago and continues to receive this allowance – no questions asked!  Her husband, I was told, is a very high earner whose income is derived outside Ireland and who pays no tax in Ireland.

That’s how to spend over €20 billion on welfare without even blinking.

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