A new scheme is being launched with the aim of reducing the waiting time for people applying for jobseeker's claims.

The new scheme will allow officials to make faster decisions on many applications and is to be set up in about one third of welfare offices around the country.

With thousands joining the dole queues every month, there has been a huge increase in the demand for services.

Many must currently wait between three and six weeks for their application for a jobseeker's claim to be processed by the Department of Social Welfare.

The new system will initially be rolled out to 20 social welfare offices around the country, including in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Waterford and Louth.

It will see applicants given appointments and told what documents are necessary. It is planned that such appointments will be scheduled for within two to three working days of the initial visit.

In many cases, the official can decide at that meeting whether the claim is valid, resulting in the person getting their benefits much more quickly.

Minister for Social Affairs Mary Hanafin said the new system, which was first tested at Dundalk Local Social Welfare Office, will see claims cleared for payment in a matter of days following the customer’s first contact with the office.

'This new fast-tracking process works very well for both the customer looking to make a claim and for the staff processing claims,' the minister added.

According to Ms Hanafin, during the pilot programme in Dundalk, 87% of claims that could be dealt with under the new system were awarded at the appointment stage.