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Social Welfare Benefits

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 14 December 2021

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Ceisteanna (429)

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

429. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Social Protection if matters raised by a person (details supplied) regarding self-employed persons will receive a response. [61222/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The matters raised by the person concerned relate to the rate of payment of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment; the rate of a Jobseeker’s payment arising from their transfer to standard jobseeker payments; and their potential entitlement to the new Benefit Payment for persons aged 65 years.

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) was introduced as an emergency measure to provide an income support to those who had lost their employment as a result of Covid. Initially, payment was made at a weekly rate of €350.

From 26 June 2020, the rate at which the PUP is paid was linked to the amount that individuals previously earned. This ensured the sustainability of the scheme and made it more targeted and fairer. In determining the rate payable, the objective was to ensure that recent earnings were taken into account. This is consistent with the approach underpinning short-term income support schemes such as Jobseeker’s Benefit and Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The person concerned was self-employed prior to claiming the PUP. The rate of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment for a self-employed person is calculated by reference to their reckonable income in either 2018 or 2019, whichever is the greater. In 2018, the person had average weekly earnings of €111; in 2019, their income was below the threshold of €5,000 at which self-employed PRSI contributions are payable. On that basis the PUP was paid at a rate of €203 from 26 June 2020.

With the reopening of the economy it is important in the interest of fairness and sustainability to restore standard Jobseeker terms in a controlled and considered manner. The need for exceptional measures has diminished as more and more employees close their PUP claims to return to work. To that end, the process of transitioning persons in receipt of the PUP to standard Jobseeker schemes commenced in October 2021. The person concerned does not qualify for Jobseekers Benefit Self-Employed as she has no qualifying PRSI record in 2019 which forms the Governing Contribution Year for claims made in 2021. The person concerned applied for and was awarded Jobseekers Allowance, which is a means tested payment. Payment was awarded at a weekly rate of €164 as the person has an occupational pension of €39 which must be taken into account in the calculation of any entitlement to Jobseekers Allowance.

The Benefit Payment for 65 year olds was introduced in line with the Programme for Government commitment, to provide a benefit payment for people who are aged 65 and who are required to retire, or who chose to retire, without a requirement to sign on, engage in activation measures or be available for and genuinely seeking work.

To be eligible for the payment a person must satisfy all the qualifying conditions of the scheme. The Governing Contribution Year is the second last complete tax year, for example, for a claim in 2022 the PRSI record from 2020 is used to establish eligibility.

The attribution of contributions in respect of periods impacted by the pandemic is intended to ensure that persons entitled to and in receipt of certain Covid-19 income supports, including PUP, will not be disadvantaged in accessing social insurance benefits in the future.

The legislation underpinning the measure makes provision for the Minister for Social Protection, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and having considered certain matters set out in the legislation, to prescribe the number of self-employment contributions to be attributed to a self-employed contributor.

A self-employed contributor has a period of time following the end of the contribution year to remit and pay his or her social insurance liability for that contribution year. For example, self-employed contributors have until the end of October 2021 to file their self-assessment tax returns for 2020, including the payment of social insurance contributions where they are liable to do so for that year.

Once data on the social insurance returns made by self-employed workers in respect of 2020 are available towards the end of this year or early in 2022, I and my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will be in a position to prescribe, as appropriate, the number of self-employment contributions required to protect the social insurance entitlements of self-employed workers who were in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment in 2020 and who were not in a position to discharge their social insurance liability for that year.

In the event that the person concerned does not have a liability to pay self-employment contributions in respect of the 2020 year, they may be entitled to attributed contributions as set out above. On that basis, the person may qualify for the Benefit Payment for 65-year olds once all the other eligibility criteria for the scheme are met.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

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