I thank the Deputy for his question. Illness benefit is a scheme under which people who are unable to work due to illness or injury are entitled to receive a weekly payment from the Social Insurance Fund. The basic rate of payment for a single person is €198 per week. Entitlement to the payment, which may be made for up to two years, is contingent on a person's social insurance record and certification by a general practitioner, GP, as being unfit for work.
In regard to certification, it is important to point out that when the new certification form was introduced, the Department agreed that GPs could continue to use their existing stock of old forms until it was exhausted. While it is not possible to provide a breakdown on the number of GPs using the new forms, I can say that over 70% of the circa 9,000 certificates and claims received each day are in the new format. Currently, payments are made to GPs in respect of the old and new version of the form.
As the Deputy will know, issues have arisen in regard to the scheme over recent months and my Department has been working hard to resolve these issues and to ensure that claims are processed and paid promptly. We have made good progress in this regard, with payment levels maintained at the expected norm of in excess of 50,000 customers paid each week for almost the past two months.
Again, I reassure the Deputy that my Department has had a long and positive partnership with GPs over many years and is committed to maintaining good working relationships with our GP partners. In this regard, I confirm that discussions with GP representatives with respect to a move from paper to e-certification have just concluded successfully. I thank the GPs for their engagement. I expect e-certification to be introduced in the first half of next year. As acknowledged and accepted by the GPs, and hopefully will be acknowledged by those in receipt of illness benefit, this will significantly improve the scheme and make it much more efficient.