Social Welfare Inspectors are appointed under Section 250 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005.
Inspectors are required to investigate and report on claims and to carry out inspections on employers to ensure that they are complying with the Pay Related Social Insurance system. In this regard claimants and employers are required to furnish the inspector with any information and/or documentation deemed relevant to the claim.
Inspectors are also empowered to examine or enquire as to whether section 121(1) (a) of the Pensions Act 1990 is being complied with and to report, if necessary, to the Pensions Board.
In general terms Section 250 confers on inspectors powers of entry without prior notification to premises where people are employed or where records relating to employment are kept.
Occupiers of premises and employers are required to furnish such information and documentation as may be required for examination by inspectors. Inspectors may interview persons found on the premises either alone or in the presence of others and obtain statements from such persons in relation to their employment.
It is an offence under the Act to obstruct or delay an inspector in the exercise of his functions.
Inspectors carry certificates of authorisation which they are required to show to the owners of premises, employers and others when they call to a premises for the purpose of an inspection or when they visit claimants at their homes. Inspectors do not have the power to enter private residences and only do so with the consent of the person they are visiting.
The powers conferred on Inspectors require them to act reasonably at all times. They are instructed to take account of individual rights and entitlements while carrying out enquiries and investigations, to exercise their powers with courtesy and discernment and to take care not to exceed those powers. However in endeavouring to comply with this requirement Inspectors are trained not to allow themselves to be diverted from their purpose or to be delayed or frustrated during an investigation.
Social Welfare Inspectors operate under a strict code of practice which sets out the manner in which they are required to deal with the public.
Special Investigation Unit/Joint Investigation Unit
The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) was set up in 1978 to investigate social welfare fraud and abuse. The SIU is comprised of Social Welfare Inspectors who report to Area Managers.
The Inspectors investigate reports of abuse of the Social Welfare system including cases where concurrent working and claiming is alleged. In addition they carry out employer PRSI inspections. The Inspectors in the SIU operate under the same powers as other Social Welfare Inspectors. During investigations of alleged concurrent working and claiming of social welfare payments claimants may be requested by the Inspector to give a statement under caution.
In 1990 the SIU combined its expertise and resources with those of the Revenue Commissioners to form the nationwide Joint Investigation Unit (JIU). This unit in addition to investigating social welfare fraud investigates tax and PRSI evasion by employers.
As part of the Department's control of abuse campaign, persons in receipt of unemployment payments or signing for credits are interviewed by Social Welfare Inspectors at Social Welfare Local Offices, Branch Offices, Garda Stations, signing centres and in their homes to establish that they continue to fulfill the relevant statutory conditions for entitlement.