Farming families overpaid more than any other social protection recipients

C&AG report finds overspend of 12.7 per cent in farm assist payments costing €9.4 million

An analysis of 2018 costs identified the largest overspend of 12.7 per cent was in farm assist payments.

An analysis of 2018 costs identified the largest overspend of 12.7 per cent was in farm assist payments.

 

Financial assistance for farming families had the highest level of excess payments by the Department of Social Protection last year, a review has found.

A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) also showed carers’ allowance and widow and widower’s pension payments ranked highly on a list of financial supports that paid out too much money to recipients.

The information was based on standard data trawls conducted by the Department in order to identify and remedy errors within the payment schemes.

These “point-in-time” reviews target random samples of between 500 and 1,000 claims under various social protection administered schemes to establish whether recipients are entitled to what they receive. The trawls examine a system responsible for distributing billions of euro.

An analysis of 2018 costs identified the largest overspend of 12.7 per cent was in farm assist payments – a means-tested scheme available to farm families whose income falls below a certain threshold – amounting to about €9.4 million.

Carers’s allowance was overpaid by 9.1 per cent as were surviving civil partner’s contributory pensions, by 7.4 per cent.

Excess payments were made in non-contributory State pensions of 6.5 per cent and of 6 per cent in both rent supplement payments and illness benefit.

Separately, the C&AG report includes a control survey conducted by the department on the non-contributory State pension, which was published last January.

This is means tested and accounted for expenditure of €1.02 billion last year. The survey examined 1,000 randomly selected payments made during one week in October 2017, at which time there were 99,000 beneficiaries.

The survey found that one-in-five of the reviewed claims involved excess payments, amounts representing 6.5 per cent of the overall value of the claims examined. The survey also found, however, that 8.2 per cent of claims reviewed were underpaid.

In a separate report on the design of income support applications, the C&AG found that while currently only available in English and Irish, work is underway to translate forms into Polish, Lithuanian, Romanian, Latvian, Portuguese and Spanish, based on census population data.

However, while application forms are necessary for 86 schemes, only five of the main ones can be completed online.

“Forms are generally quite lengthy, with 36 pages each in the forms for disability allowance and carer’s allowance,” the report notes. “However, the information sought was necessary to complete an assessment for the claim.”