Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (321, 331)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

321. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Education if there is a common framework from which her Department advises schools to work for online teaching of leaving certificate students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2789/21]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

331. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education the steps she is taking to support teachers in delivering the required syllabus through remote learning due to Covid-19 restrictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2963/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 321 and 331 together.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic my Department has issued extensive guidance material to assist schools with the continuity of learning. This guidance to schools was developed in consultation with all relevant stakeholders including teachers, parents and learners. The guidance included provision to support the continuity of teaching and learning in response to the Covid-19 restrictions for those learners unable to engage with online learning. This guidance is all available at gov.ie.

In November 2020, a circular (No. 0074/2020) issued to all schools advising them of the requirement to put in place appropriate contingency measures, to include a Communication and Learning Platform, to ensure that they are prepared to continue to support teaching and learning in the event of a partial or full closure of schools arising from Public Health advice. The circular sets out the comprehensive level of supports that are in place to assist schools with this process.

Extensive support and advice for teachers and schools to provide remote learning has been, and continues to be made available through my Department’s support service, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) and its Technology in Education team at www.pdsttechnologyineducation.ie The information on this website includes a link to a dedicated PDST portal https://www.pdst.ie/DistanceLearning aimed at supporting teachers and schools in the remote learning environment. This resource includes information on popular communication and learning platforms, digital tools and resources, video conferencing, webinars to support and inspire teachers to identify good practice and a dedicated online course for teachers for remote learning. My Department’s education website www.scoilnet.ie also contains a wealth of curriculum tagged resources that can be used by teachers, students and parents to support the continuity of learning in the remote environment.

Schools can also apply to www.pdst.ie/schoolsupport for the assistance of a PDST adviser for tailored school support in all subject areas at Primary and Post-Primary levels including those pertaining to the use of Digital Technologies to support remote teaching, learning and assessment practices. The PDST Leadership team will also be available to support school leaders in leading the remote teaching and learning process through school support, national programmes and localised networks.

As part of the €210m investment programme underpinning the implementation of the Digital Strategy for Schools, my Department provided €100m in grant funding to schools to address their ICT needs during 2020. Schools were advised that they can use this funding to support the continuity of teaching and learning should a period of partial or full school closure occur arising from Public Health advice owing to Covid-19 restrictions as is the current situation. Schools can use this funding, inter alia, to acquire software applications or platforms to enable remote learning and communications, and to provide for devices to be loaned to teachers and learners in particular where needed to enable engagement with remote learning. Funding for ICT is issued directly to schools given that schools are best placed to determine the ICT needs of their school community. In addition my Department directly funds the provision of broadband connectivity for schools at a cost of some €13m per annum. School buildings will remain open to allow staff access where this is essential to facilitate remote learning.

It is important to note that digital technology is a tool to be employed by teachers to deliver the curriculum and that it is not replacing the teacher in the teaching process. Regular engagement with pupils and students, appropriate and engaging learning opportunities, assessment and constructive feedback will continue to be important elements of the education provided by teachers. My Department’s Inspectorate will continue to offer an advisory service to schools to support the delivery of remote learning and to provide assistance to school leaders in particular. The Inspectorate will also evaluate and report on the quality of educational provision for students and will continue to carry out its other work as set out in Circulars 40/2020 and 41/2020.

The Deputy will appreciate that the situation we find ourselves in is evolving all the time. My Department, in working with the whole of Government, will keep the situation under review and update any advices to schools as required. It is with the work of all our stakeholders together that we will continue to provide the best education for all our pupils/students.

State Examinations

Questions Nos. 323 and 324 answered with Question No. 279.

Question No. 325 answered with Question No. 283.

Questions (322)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

322. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education when guidance will be issued on the leaving certificate 2021; if she foresees changes from a traditional leaving certificate given the significant disruption to fifth year students during 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2818/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

It remains the government's intention to operate the conventional 2021 Leaving Certificate examinations, with appropriate public health measures in place. This view is shared by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), which has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations

Planning for these examinations is underway by the SEC and the Department. It is recognised that a flexible and agile approach is necessary in light of the continuing fast-moving environment linked to Covid-19. This planning work is being assisted by an advisory group of key stakeholders which has recently been reconvened. The advisory group includes representatives of students, parents, teachers, school leadership and management bodies, the SEC, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education, including the National Educational Psychological Service.

The advisory group met on a number of occasions before Christmas, with a further meeting planned for this week. The advisory group will consider all of the various issues arising in relation to the holding of the 2021 examinations, including public health considerations and appropriate contingency measures.

My Department is acutely aware of the disruption caused to students as a result of school closures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic which led to the decision not to run the state examinations last summer, and the more recent decision of 7 January 2021 to close schools for up to three weeks from 11 January until 1 February.

From Monday 11 January 2021, all students, including Leaving Certificate students, are engaging in a programme of remote learning with their schools.

The public health restrictions which resulted in the closure of schools in March 2020 highlighted the absolute necessity for schools to be agile in providing for continuity of schooling in the future. As a contingency measure against the possibility of partial or full school closures, my Department has already provided a suite of guidance materials, agreed with the education partners, to enable schools to mediate the curriculum safely for all pupils/students in a Covid-19 context. These are available at www.gov.ie/backtoschool. This documentation has been complemented by Circular 0074/2020 (Communication/Teaching & Learning Platform) which requires all schools to have in place appropriate contingency measures to ensure that they are prepared to continue to support teaching and learning in the event of a partial or full closure of schools arising from Public Health advice.

Last August, I announced a series of changes that would be made to assessment arrangements for both Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate examinations for 2021. This announcement was accompanied by a published document detailing these changes, Assessment Arrangements for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Examinations 2021, and forms part of the Roadmap for the Full Return to School. On 21 December 2020, the Department published an updated version of the publication which includes clarifications in relation to a number of subjects.

These arrangements are designed to take account of the disrupted learning experienced by students during the 2019/20 school year and to factor in for some further possible loss of learning time in the 2020/21 school year as a contingency measure. As the loss of learning through school closures affects students’ engagement with their course of study in different ways, the adjustments put in place play to students’ strengths by leaving intact the familiar overall structure of the examinations, while incorporating additional choice. The adjustments were arrived at through discussions between my Department, the State Examinations Commission (SEC), the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and key stakeholders.

These changes to the national assessment arrangements were made with due regard for the principles of equity, fairness and integrity, as these principles apply to assessment and examinations and refer to student to-student, subject-to-subject, and year-to-year comparisons over time. The changes provide reassurance to students, their parents/guardians, teachers and schools.

In addition to the above the State Examinations Commission also advised schools in December of flexibility being provided for schools and students in the arrangements for the completion and authentication of coursework and that circular is available at https://www.examinations.ie/misc-doc/BI-EX-12232019.pdf. Further clarifications in this regard, on foot of the most recent school closure, were issued recently by the SEC.

The SEC has valuable learning from the experience of running the 2020 November state examinations, notwithstanding that the numbers taking these examinations were significantly lower than the number due to sit examinations in 2021. The measures relating to COVID-19 that were put in place for the November examinations will be considered as part of the planning for examinations in 2021.

Other documents published by my Department to support the return to school include ‘Guidance for Practical Subjects in Post-Primary Schools and Centres for Education’ and ‘Returning to school: Guidance on learning and school programmes for post primary school leaders and teachers’. These documents provide guidance for teachers and schools that is specific to each practical subject area, so that students can be facilitated to actively engage with their learning. All documentation published is available on www.gov.ie/backtoschool.

Questions Nos. 323 and 324 answered with Question No. 279.
Question No. 325 answered with Question No. 283.

School Facilities

Question No. 327 answered with Question No. 279.

Questions (326)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

326. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Education the actions parents can take in the event that they do not have computer, printing and other facilities available to carry out remote learning; if schools are being resourced to provide additional supplies and facilities to families that require same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2911/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic my Department has issued extensive guidance material to assist schools with the continuity of learning. This guidance to schools was developed in consultation with all relevant stakeholders including teachers, parents and learners. The guidance included provision to support the continuity of teaching and learning in response to the Covid-19 restrictions for those learners unable to engage with online learning. This guidance is available at gov.ie.

As part of the €210m investment programme underpinning the implementation of the Digital Strategy for Schools, my Department provided €100m in grant funding to schools to address their ICT needs during 2020. Schools were advised that they can use this funding to support the continuity of teaching and learning should a period of partial or full school closure occur arising from Public Health advice owing to Covid-19 restrictions as is the current situation. This can include the purchase of ICT devices including laptops, etc., that can be shared with students and teachers who do not have access to devices, essential learning platforms and other ICT infrastructure to support the provision of remote learning.

This ICT Grant funding issues to schools, as schools are best placed to identify the needs of their learners and to meet those requirements.

In addition my Department directly funds the provision of broadband connectivity for schools at a cost of some €13m per annum. School buildings will remain open to allow staff access where this is essential to facilitate remote learning.

Responsibility for ensuring that learners receive appropriate support to engage adequately with learning remains with the school in which they are enrolled. Regular and ongoing communication between school and home will be essential to support engagement with learning and continuous connection with classmates and school community. Additional supports will be provided for these learners from within the staffing resources of the school. Schools will have discretion to manage and redistribute their support resources in order to best meet the learning needs of their pupils and students.

Resources to support schools and teachers to the transition to distance learning using technology, including blended learning approaches, are being provided by the Department support service, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), at https://www.pdst.ie/DistanceLearning.

The Department’s Education portal www.scoilnet.ie also contains a wealth of curriculum tagged resources that can be used by teachers, students and parents to support the continuity of learning in the remote environment.

Question No. 327 answered with Question No. 279.

School Equipment

Questions (328)

Gary Gannon

Question:

328. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the provision in place to provide the necessary additional assistive technologies to enable students with disabilities to access the curriculum remotely. [2937/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As a contingency measure for the possibility of partial or full school closures, my Department provided to schools in October a suite of guidance materials, agreed with the education partners, to enable schools to mediate the curriculum safely for all learners in a Covid-19 context. These documents have been complemented by Circular 0074/2020 which required all schools to put in place appropriate contingency measures to ensure that they are prepared to continue to support teaching and learning in the event of a partial or full closure of schools arising from Public Health advice.

My Department has provided significant additional resources to schools to help support the provision of ICT equipment and to prioritise the needs of students that do not otherwise have access to ICT. My Department issued €50m in April 2020 in Digital Strategy ICT grant funding in respect of the 2019-2020 school year, including €10m brought forward. A further €50m issued in December 2020 in respect of the 2020-2021 school year. Schools were advised to use this funding to support the continuity of teaching and learning should a period of partial or full school closure owing to Covid-19 restrictions be required

My Department has also provided updated specific guidance to advise on how schools and teachers can support continuity in the learning for pupils with Special Educational Needs during school closures due to Covid-19.

The guidance outlines that where possible, adaptive technologies which have been provided for the pupils for use in schools should be made available for use in the home environment.

This guidance has now been provided for schools and is available at:

https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/National-Emergencies-Public-Health-Issues/guidance-continuity-of-schooling-supporting-pupils-with-sen-primary.pdf

https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/National-Emergencies-Public-Health-Issues/guidance-continuity-of-schooling-supporting-students-with-sen-post-primary.pdf

School Guidelines on Mental Health

Questions (329)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

329. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Education if consideration will be given to providing emergency funding and-or advice to schools to allow them reach out to pupils at risk given reports of an increase in suicide rates among young persons during the Covid-19 pandemic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2945/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Promoting wellbeing is a fundamental element of the Department’s overall plan to support school communities as we continue to manage the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) of my Department is leading on supporting the wellbeing of schools communities at this time. The response to support the wellbeing of all within school communities requires a structured, psychosocial response which is compassionate and largely preventative and proactive. A whole-school team approach to planning is recommended in order to ensure that staff, students and parents feel safe and secure. This response is aligned with the HSE guidance on such responses, and based on the five key principles of promoting a sense of safety, calm, connectedness, self- and community-efficacy and hope.

NEPS has created a range of resources and support including Wellbeing Webinars for primary/special/post-primary schools, Wellbeing Toolkits for Schools with a range of easily downloadable, user-friendly materials and advice and resources for parents, student and school staff to support their wellbeing at this time. Resources include:

Students

- Advice for young people while schools are closed

- A Plan for the Day – A template to support daily routines

- Managing Stress and Anxiety – a guide for students

- Panic attacks – a guide for students

Teachers

- The response to stress information for school staff

- Normalising thoughts feelings and behaviour – a guide for school staff

- Guidelines for Teachers - Listen, Connect, Model & Teach (This guide has been developed to enable teachers to talk in a comforting and supportive way with students who may need the support of the Student Support Team at this time

- Managing Stress and Anxiety in students – A Guide for School Staff

Parents

- A Guide for Parents on supporting children and young people with daily routines while schools are closed

- How to Calm and Support your Child – A Guide for Parents and Guardians

- Managing Stress and Anxiety - A Guide for Parents and Guardians

These resources can be accessed on the gov.ie website.

NEPS psychologists continue to provide a service to schools via remote access. All psychologists have been asked to continue to maintain contact with their assigned schools during this period of school closure. NEPS psychologists will continue to provide those elements of case work that can be managed remotely to support the learning and wellbeing of children and young people during this current period of school closure. With the support of schools, this may include consultation with teachers and/or teachers and parents, input into Student Support Plans/Reviews and feedback to teachers and/or parents. NEPS will also continue to provide support to schools in the event of a critical incident.

In the event that the need for a more targeted counselling or a specialised intervention is identified by the NEPS psychologist, a referral is made to an outside agency for evaluation and ongoing support. The NEPS psychologist will identify the most appropriate referral pathway and support schools with the onward referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Team (CAMHS), HSE Primary Care/Community Psychology teams, or an identified local community based specialist mental health service.

At post primary level, each school currently receives an allocation in respect of guidance provision, which is calculated by reference to the approved enrolment. Counselling is a key part of the role of the Guidance Counsellor, offered on an individual or group basis as part of a developmental learning process, at moments of personal crisis but also at key transition points. The Guidance Counsellor also identifies and supports the referral of students to external counselling agencies and professionals, as required. The Guidance Counsellor is key in developing and implementing innovative approaches to wellbeing promotion on a whole schools basis though the school’s Guidance Plan.

As part of the resources announced to support schools 17 additional NEPS psychologists were sanctioned to provide enhanced services to support the wellbeing of our school communities at this time and 120 additional posts have been provided for guidance counselling in post primary schools.

Overall responsibility for the provision of child and adolescent mental health services lies within the remit of the Department of Health. My Department will continue to signpost schools and students to the HSE/HSE-funded e-mental health services. The Department of Health and HSE have ensured the most appropriate services and resources are clearly signposted for young people. The stepped care approach recognises that at present, there already exists services that offer online text and telephone supports to people seeking mental health information and advice. These include the Samaritans, Pieta House, MyMind, Turn2Me, Aware, Crisis Text Ireland, Shine, BeLongTo, LGBT Ireland, Jigsaw, Bodywhys and Childline. The YourMentalHealth.ie website provides a ‘one-stop-shop’ portal for people seeking information, supports and services, including information on accessing urgent help and a mental health text messaging support service which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days each week to connect people with trained volunteers.

State Examinations

Question No. 331 answered with Question No. 321.

Questions (330)

Denis Naughten

Question:

330. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education the steps she is taking to ensure there will be a leaving certificate examination in 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2962/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

It remains the government's intention to operate the conventional 2021 Leaving Certificate examinations, with appropriate public health measures in place. This view is shared by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), which has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations

Planning for these examinations is underway by the SEC and the Department. It is recognised that a flexible and agile approach is necessary in light of the continuing fast-moving environment linked to Covid-19. This planning work is being assisted by an advisory group of key stakeholders which has recently been reconvened. The advisory group includes representatives of students, parents, teachers, school leadership and management bodies, the SEC, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education, including the National Educational Psychological Service.

The advisory group met on a number of occasions before Christmas, with a further meeting planned for this week. The advisory group will consider all of the various issues arising in relation to the holding of the 2021 examinations, including public health considerations and appropriate contingency measures.

My Department is acutely aware of the disruption caused to students as a result of school closures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic which led to the decision not to run the state examinations last summer, and the more recent decision of 7 January 2021 to close schools for up to three weeks from 11 January until 1 February.

From Monday 11 January 2021, all students, including Leaving Certificate students, are engaging in a programme of remote learning with their schools.

The public health restrictions which resulted in the closure of schools in March 2020 highlighted the absolute necessity for schools to be agile in providing for continuity of schooling in the future. As a contingency measure against the possibility of partial or full school closures, my Department has already provided a suite of guidance materials, agreed with the education partners, to enable schools to mediate the curriculum safely for all pupils/students in a Covid-19 context. These are available at www.gov.ie/backtoschool. This documentation has been complemented by Circular 0074/2020 (Communication/Teaching & Learning Platform) which requires all schools to have in place appropriate contingency measures to ensure that they are prepared to continue to support teaching and learning in the event of a partial or full closure of schools arising from Public Health advice.

Last August, I announced a series of changes that would be made to assessment arrangements for both Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate examinations for 2021. This announcement was accompanied by a published document detailing these changes, Assessment Arrangements for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Examinations 2021, and forms part of the Roadmap for the Full Return to School. On 21 December 2020, the Department published an updated version of the publication which includes clarifications in relation to a number of subjects.

These arrangements are designed to take account of the disrupted learning experienced by students during the 2019/20 school year and to factor in for some further possible loss of learning time in the 2020/21 school year as a contingency measure. As the loss of learning through school closures affects students’ engagement with their course of study in different ways, the adjustments put in place play to students’ strengths by leaving intact the familiar overall structure of the examinations, while incorporating additional choice. The adjustments were arrived at through discussions between my Department, the State Examinations Commission (SEC), the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and key stakeholders.

These changes to the national assessment arrangements were made with due regard for the principles of equity, fairness and integrity, as these principles apply to assessment and examinations and refer to student to-student, subject-to-subject, and year-to-year comparisons over time. The changes provide reassurance to students, their parents/guardians, teachers and schools.

In addition to the above the State Examinations Commission also advised schools in December of flexibility being provided for schools and students in the arrangements for the completion and authentication of coursework and that circular is available at https://www.examinations.ie/misc-doc/BI-EX-12232019.pdf. Further clarifications in this regard, on foot of the most recent school closure, were issued recently by the SEC.

The SEC has valuable learning from the experience of running the 2020 November state examinations, notwithstanding that the numbers taking these examinations were significantly lower than the number due to sit examinations in 2021. The measures relating to COVID-19 that were put in place for the November examinations will be considered as part of the planning for examinations in 2021.

Other documents published by my Department to support the return to school include ‘Guidance for Practical Subjects in Post-Primary Schools and Centres for Education’ and ‘Returning to school: Guidance on learning and school programmes for post primary school leaders and teachers’. These documents provide guidance for teachers and schools that is specific to each practical subject area, so that students can be facilitated to actively engage with their learning. All documentation published is available on www.gov.ie/backtoschool.

Question No. 331 answered with Question No. 321.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (332, 341)

Noel Grealish

Question:

332. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Social Protection if persons can claim the pandemic unemployment payment or a portion of the payment; if not, if another payment can be introduced for working parents who are classified as essential workers but cannot work from home and must leave work or reduce their hours of work in order to provide essential childcare while schools are closed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2198/21]

View answer

Seán Canney

Question:

341. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to introduce a Covid-19 support payment for essential workers who have to take time off work due to childcare issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2429/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 332 and 341 together.

To be eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment a person must have lost their employment as a direct consequence of Covid-19 and must not be in receipt of pay from their employer.

From the outset of Covid-19, many employers will have taken the initiative, in line with requests from the Government, to be as flexible as possible in giving staff time off and working patterns that enable them to look after their children who are not attending school or crèche such as allowing employees to work from home, altering shifts or allowing employees to rearrange holidays or parental leave.

Under the current circumstances, where schools and childcare facilities are closed, a person who cannot obtain childcare and is unable to work from home or avail of appropriate flexible work options may apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, where they are not being paid by their employer. I have confirmed that this arrangement will continue to remain in place during this latest set of Level 5 restrictions.

An employee who is working reduced hours is not eligible to receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment as they are still being paid by their employer.

The means tested Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme is available to any person who may be experiencing financial hardship. Supports available under the scheme include Exceptional and Urgent Needs Payments. Further details are available on www.gov.ie

I trust that this clarifies the position.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (333, 334)

Bríd Smith

Question:

333. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Social Protection if a worker who accepts a voluntary redundancy from his or her employer as a result of the downturn due to the Covid crisis is entitled to claim the pandemic unemployment payment. [2202/21]

View answer

Bríd Smith

Question:

334. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Social Protection if a worker who is made redundant by his or her employer as a result of the Covid-19 crisis is entitled to claim the pandemic unemployment payment or if he or she must claim jobseeker's benefit or jobseeker's allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2203/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 333 and 334 together.

To date approximately €5.3 Billion has been paid on the Pandemic Unemployment payment (PUP) which continues to mitigate the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our economy and society. The scheme will remain open to new applications until 31st March.

To be eligible for PUP a person must have become unemployed due to the downturn in economic activity caused by the pandemic and satisfy the other statutory scheme conditions. A person who is made redundant due to the effects of Covid-19 on their employment is entitled to claim PUP in the same manner as a person who is temporarily laid off.

I trust that this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (335, 336)

Gino Kenny

Question:

335. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to change the age criterion for jobseeker's and pandemic unemployment payments that are only payable to persons between 18 and 66 years of age. [2241/21]

View answer

Gino Kenny

Question:

336. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the jobseeker's age criterion of 18 to 66 years of age unfairly discriminates against persons under 18 years of age and persons over 66 years of age who were working and paying tax and PRSI during the Covid-19 pandemic. [2242/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 335 and 336 together.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is a statutory support which is available to support persons of working age from 18 years up to pensionable age, 66 years, who have lost their employment due to the pandemic and where they are not being paid by their employer. The age range provided for is consistent with other social protection schemes payable to people of working age.

People aged 66 years and over are provided for through the social insurance based State pension (contributory) or the means-tested State pension (non-contributory). A person aged over 66 who is in employment may retain their State pension (contributory) and employment income.

If a person does not have the required number of contributions to receive the maximum rate of State pension (contributory) they may qualify for an increased rate of State pension (non-contributory), depending on their circumstances. People who receive the non-contributory State pension who also have employment income may have their pension payment increased if they lose their employment income due to the pandemic or if their employment income is reduced.

People aged 66 and over may also be entitled to a range of ancillary supports which include free travel, fuel allowance, household benefits package for gas or electricity costs and living alone allowance.

A person under 18 years of age who has lost their employment and is living in the family home is treated as a dependent in relation to a social welfare payment payable to a parent.

A person of any age who is experiencing financial hardship may access assistance under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme including Exceptional and Urgent Needs Payments.

It is also important to note that an employer who is availing of the Employer Wage Subsidy Scheme can claim the subsidy in respect of all PAYE workers on their payroll.

I trust that this clarifies the position for the Deputy.