New bill will allow jobless to sign on by mobile
JOBLESS workers will start signing on for the dole by mobile phone from next year.
The Government has taken the first steps to roll out a new hi-tech social welfare system that will begin with a pilot scheme in January.
It is one of the key reforms in a new social welfare bill, published yesterday, to be debated in the Dail before passing into law by Christmas.
Following a dramatic doubling in unemployment the scheme is designed to cut down on state officials' workload and generate savings, while also using new technology to tackle fraudsters.
Currently, those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance or Jobseeker's Benefit must sign on in person at their local unemployment office once a month.
But the new electronic certification system means they would only have to go to the social welfare office once for a face-to-face meeting when making their application.
After that, the monthly signing on system would be replaced by regular phone calls from officials to claimants.
Their identify would be verified by voice recognition technology.
They could also get phone calls at any time to check if they are available for work.
If they failed to answer the phone on three or more occasions or they answered and the sound of a pneumatic drill in the background prompted suspicion they were working on a building site, for instance, an investigation would be launched.
In addition, their phones can be tracked to make sure they are not in another jurisdiction when due to sign on.
Separately, the Department of Social Protection may allow claimants to sign on by using a digital signature pad at their dole office to cut down on queues and paperwork.
However, claimants will still be expected to collect their weekly payment in person at their local post office.
Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv indicated the system will be introduced on a national basis if the pilot scheme is a success.
He also revealed a new scheme to help workers on a three-day week get off the dole would be launched before Christmas.
In addition, landlords who dodge tax also face a clampdown under the new social welfare bill.
The bill also gives gay couples the same right to social welfare benefits as heterosexual couples who live together.