A Somali refugee has been given leave to apply for judicial review of the failure to give her access to copies of previous social welfare decisions relevant to her case. The woman, who has been recognised as a refugee, is appealing a decision about arrears of Child Benefit and was given leave for Judicial Review on 28 July last. She is represented by FLAC.
When the woman asked the Social Welfare Appeals Office for copies of prior decisions to help her prepare her appeal, she was told that the Appeals Office does not keep files of its own decisions but sends them all to the Department of Social Protection, which is the Respondent in almost all social welfare appeals. The Appeals Office publishes a small number of decisions on its website but there is no way of knowing how representative they are.
The woman then asked the Department for copies of past decisions and was told that the Department does not file them in any systematic way that would enable her to access them. She was given two decisions that someone in the Department remembered but they were not relevant to her case.
The woman argued in her judicial review application that the failure to provide copies of past decisions made it very difficult for social welfare claimants or their advisors to know what the criteria for social welfare decisions are. It also puts them at a disadvantage compared with the Department, which does have access to the decisions.
The social welfare appeals bodies in Northern Ireland and Britain publish their decisions on their websites so that claimants and their advisors can see how decisions are made.
The judicial review proceedings are listed again for the 13 October next.