The success rate in appeals against refusals of social welfare payments has increased by almost one-fifth in over the past four years, according to figures obtained by Fianna Fáil.

But they also reveal a substantial acceleration in the speed at which appeals are decided.

The latest statistics were supplied by Minister Regina Doherty to Fianna Fáil's Social Protection spokesperson Willie O'Dea.

They show a steady increase in the proportion of contested social welfare refusals overturned in recent years.

In 2012, 50% of the 35,000 finalised appeals were upheld.

However, by last year, the share had climbed to 59%.

Mr O'Dea said it is very telling that nearly six in every ten social welfare appeals are being upheld and called for a swift simplification of the department's decision-making systems and applications processes.

In a statement, he noted that the figures to date this year show the same trend - with 58% of appeals being upheld.

But the Limerick TD complained that tens of thousands of people validly applying for welfare supports are being unfairly turned down without any justification.

The figures also show an increase in efficiency as measured by the average times taken by officials to process appeals.

In 2012 it took, on average, almost 28 weeks to deliver a summary decision but last year that had dropped to almost 18 weeks.

The improvement is more impressive where hearings requiring an oral hearing are concerned.

In 2012, the average waiting time was almost 40 weeks but last year that had dropped to 24 weeks - a reduction of over one-third.

While acknowledging the improvement, Mr O'Dea criticised the delays for being too long.

He said it is wrong and unfair to ask someone to wait almost 19 weeks for a ruling, after they had possibly spent the same amount of time awaiting a decision on their original application.

He called on the minister responsible, Ms Doherty, to improve and simplify application procedures so as to prevent applicants being, as he put it, "dragged through" an unwarranted and wasteful appeals processes which puts pressure on those involved.