PEOPLE claiming long-term disability allowances for illnesses such as stress and anxiety could be offered jobs instead of money, Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin said yesterday.
Instead of receiving generous long-term allowances, recipients will be reviewed and offered the chance of suitable employment or training. The minister said there had been a surge in the number claiming long-term illness payments for conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression, particularly since the recession began.
Ms Hanafin wants to target what she called the "milder forms" of such illnesses and get people back into work where possible and off social welfare.
"It's not about taking the money away," she told the Irish Independent. "Some people cannot work but others perhaps can do something else.
"These account for about a third of all disability claims and we want to get people to focus on ability, not disability."
She also characterised a suggestion to slash lone-parent payments as "a social policy" to help young women.
With a 4pc cut in social welfare payments already in train, the minister claimed the plan was not an attempt to save money. She said 90,000 young women received payments of up to €12,000 a year and that this was a disincentive to have relationships and seek work.
She denied she was picking on lone parents and said such a scheme might not be introduced for up to five years.
"The support will definitely continue until a child is of second-level age," she added.
A scheme to exempt employers from PRSI payments if they help people rejoin the workforce was launched yesterday.
Under the arrangement, an employer who creates a new job and employs a person who has been on the Live Register for six months or more, will be exempt from the employer's PRSI contributions for a year.
"The scheme will typically result in a reduction of €3,000 per year in the cost of an employment," said Ms Hanafin.