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State coughs up over €1bn as payouts for 'sickies' doubles

The State is paying out almost €1bn a year to cover the cost of people who cannot work because they are sick or ill -- almost twice as much as it paid out during the Celtic Tiger years.

The massive jump in the cost of the payment -- known as illness benefit -- is further evidence of the toll the recession is placing on the State's purse strings.

Illness benefit cost Joan Burton's Department of Social Protection €943m last year. In 2005, the State paid out €540m in illness benefit claims.

Some of the most common claims for illness benefit arise from depression, stress, anxiety and nervous disorders -- illnesses often triggered by financial stress and unemployment.

Almost 90,000 people are now struggling to repay their mortgages and one in seven are out of work.

"There appears to be a direct correlation between rising debt and the increase in claims for illness benefit," said Michael Dowling, a spokesman for the mortgage brokers, the Independent Mortgage Advisers' Federation.

"When you're under financial stress, it has implications on your lifestyle. It affects your ability to work and to function as a human being."

The State has already paid out €375m in illness benefit claims so far this year.

Other common illnesses behind the claims include postnatal depression, arthritis, bereavement, leg, knee and ankle injuries, back, rib and neck problems, and bone fractures.

Sunday Indo Business