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Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 3 February 2022

Thursday, 3 February 2022

Questions (78, 110)

Paul Murphy

Question:

78. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if, in view of the rapidly rising cost of living she will reverse the cuts to the pandemic unemployment payment and cancel planned future cuts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5403/22]

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Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

110. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection her proposals in relation to the future of the pandemic unemployment payment in view of the changed circumstances in relation to Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4638/22]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 110 together.

Expenditure on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment scheme has exceeded €9 billion since its introduction in March 2020. This demonstrates the Government’s clear commitment to workers who lost employment during the pandemic.

There has been a significant reduction in the number of recipients who are in receipt of the PUP from a peak of 605,000 in May 2020, over 481,000 in February 2021 to approximately 75,500 this week. Following the recent Government decision to remove restrictions with effect from 22 January we expect many more thousands of workers to return to work.

As a result of the lifting of restrictions, PUP has been closed to new applications and the Government has approved the winding-down of the scheme over the coming months. The process of moving recipients to standard social welfare terms on a gradual basis, which had commenced from September 2021, will continue. From 8 March 2022, anyone in receipt of PUP whose rate was higher than €208 will move to the standard weekly rate of €208. Remaining recipients will then commence transitioning to standard social welfare terms, and if eligible, will move onto a jobseeker payment from 5 April 2022.

It is important in the interest of fairness and equity that standard social welfare standards are restored as the need for this emergency support diminishes, and therefore I have no plans to reverse these decisions. Where customers are unable to return to employment, supports are available from my Department’s Public Employments Service to assist them to find employment or retrain.

As part of Budget 2022 Government committed to very significant increases in a targeted package of social protection supports. These include an increase to the Qualified Child Payment of €2 per week for children under 12 and €3 per week for children over 12, an increase in the Living Alone Allowance of €3 per week, an increase to the Fuel Allowance of €5 per week combined with a broadening of the threshold for eligibility and an increase in the income threshold of the Working Family Payment of €10 per week. The total cost of these interventions is projected at €146m in 2022.

In addition, I provided for a €5 weekly increase on standard weekly social welfare rates. Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme, Exceptional Needs Payments may be made to help meet an essential cost which customers are unable to meet out of their own resources.

Question No. 79 answered with Question No. 65.
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