Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Questions (535)

Catherine Murphy


535. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the estimated cost of extending the Covid-19 illness benefit into 2021; the way in which persons can access the scheme; and the criteria in order to be eligible for the scheme. [26349/20]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Over €36 million has been spent on the enhanced illness benefit payment to date. The estimated cost of extending the COVID-19 illness benefit payment until the end of March 2021 is estimated to be an additional €35 million.  This includes payments for increases for qualified adults and children.

The purpose of the enhanced Illness Benefit payment in respect of COVID-19 is to encourage people to not go to work due to financial constraint when they should be in isolation.  The rate of payment is higher than the normal maximum personal rate for a limited period.  The measures were designed to ensure that where a registered medical practitioner or a HSE medical officer of health diagnoses a person with Covid-19 or identifies him or her as a probable source of infection of Covid-19, the person can comply with medical advice to isolate.

It is important that employees and the self-employed comply with public health advice to self-isolate where appropriate, while having their income protected to the greatest extent possible.  This is essential to limit and slow down the spread of the virus, to keep the number of people affected to a minimum, and to reduce a peak of cases which would cause extreme pressure on the health system.

Payment is made at a rate of €350 per week for up to 10 weeks in the case of someone diagnosed with the illness or for up to 2 weeks for someone who is a probable source of infection, subject to ongoing medical certification.  There are no waiting days.

In order to access the payment, individuals need to:

- complete an application form in hard copy or online;

- provide a medical certificate of incapacity for work from their doctor (hard copy or online) or evidence of contact tracing by the HSE;

- have paid a contribution in the previous 4 weeks or been self-employed in that time; and

- be under pensionable age.

Doctors are only authorised to submit medical certificates in respect of COVID-19 in respect of two very limited circumstances set out in legislation for a person:

(i) who is diagnosed with COVID-19, or

(ii) who is a probable source of infection of COVID-19 and is self-isolating

Such persons will have either been certified by their doctor or will have received a notification from the HSE (i.e. where they are contact-traced or otherwise personally identified and advised by the HSE as being a probable source of infection).

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.