Application forms for unemployment benefit have been made available on the internet in an effort to speed up processing claims.

Minister for Social Affairs Mary Hanafin said the initiative is one of a number to improve services for those who have either lost their jobs or had their working hours reduced.

The decision follows complaints from the St Vincent de Paul Society that it was taking as long as twelve weeks to get unemployment benefit in some places.

The Department of Social Affairs has already moved additional staff to local offices experiencing particular pressure.

The application forms are available for the first time to download from her Department's website,, by clicking on the ‘Recently Unemployed?’ link.

The Minister said being able to have the forms filled out in advance of arriving and having the appropriate documents will help both the jobseeker and the offices processing claims.

Welcoming the initiative as encouraging, John Monaghan of the St Vincent de Paul Society said it was the right thing to do for men and women unfortunate enough to lose their jobs.