Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection Willie O’Dea says that lessons must be learnt from the Ombudsman’s report on the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection’s handling of overpayments.
Commenting Deputy O’Dea said, “I welcome the report by the Ombudsman on the issue of overpayments by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and I hope that lessons will be learnt from the report.
“I personally have come across cases such as those identified in the report whereby the Department has sought to recoup overpayments dating back several years which caused significant stress to the individuals concerned. In addition, these overpayments were often because of errors made by staff in the Department which only added to the injustice felt by those pursued by the Department.
“It is essential that the issue of overpayments is dealt with in a timely and appropriate manner and that the Department takes into account an individual’s personal circumstances and ability to repay debt.
“I note that the Ombudsman has commended the Department for its positive engagement with his office and has circulated a procedures manual to all staff on the approach that should be taken to overpayments. However, I believe it is essential that the Department continuously monitors this situation and indeed its own role in overpayments.
“Far too often the perception is given that overpayments is as a result of deliberate fraud and even the Government contributed to this with their ‘welfare cheats, cheats us all’ campaign, but it is clear from this report that the Department is not entirely blameless in this regard.
“I hope that lessons are learnt from this report and it will result in improved outcomes for individuals and for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection,” concluded Deputy O’Dea.