The Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development, and the Islands, has this evening published its report on the operation of the Pandemic Unemployment Scheme, in advance of the introduction of the Social Protection Bill 2020 in the Houses of the Oireachtas tomorrow.
The Committee recently completed its consideration of the Pandemic Unemployment Scheme, and undertook a detailed examination and review of the Scheme, as administered by the Department of Social Protection. The Committee sought public submissions, and held a public hearing with officials from the Department of Social Protection, Community and Rural Development, and the Islands.
Committee Chairperson, Denis Naughten TD said: “While the Committee fully acknowledged the significant measures taken by Social Protection officials to process a phenomenal number of applications within a very tight timeline, it was also clear to the Joint Committee that the scheme has raised a lot of questions for those impacted by the restrictions in place since March.
“We believe that the Department of Social Protection must immediately review the interaction of the PUP with the wage subsidy schemes operated by the Department of Finance. It is the view of the Committee that it is preferable for employees to maintain their employment income and direct connection with their employer rather than having to avail of PUP. In order to achieve this objective every effort must be made to assist employers in keeping employees on their books rather than forcing them to avail of PUP.
Chair Naughten added: “The Joint Committee requests that particular attention be given to our musicians and entertainers and is of the opinion that special status should be granted to this sector as an industry which has been decimated and continues to be adversely affected by the pandemic, perhaps more than any other sector in society.”
Among the key recommendations of The Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands:
- The Joint Committee has expressed serious concerns with regard to the abolition of mortgage interest supplement particularly for families who have been forced out of work due Covid-19. It recommends that a mortgage interest supplement should be re-established as a matter of urgency.
- The Department must immediately review the interaction of the PUP with the wage subsidy schemes operated by the Department of Finance.
- The Department should review the imposition of a requirement to “genuinely seek work” while in receipt of the Covid PUP.
- The Joint Committee recognises the measures taken by the Minister to extend the date for the receipt of applications under the PUP until March 2021.
- The Joint Committee believes that the current earnings cap of €480 in a 4 week period is too inflexible to meet the needs of the entertainment industry and instead recommends that the €480 threshold would be based on average net earnings over the full period that an applicant is in receipt of the PUP, which would be in line with the treatment of income under Farm Assist etc.
- The Joint Committee recommends that self-employed persons over the age of 66, who are not eligible for a State Pension, would be deemed eligible for the PUP.
- The Joint Committee recommends that persons under the age of 18, who have been in paid employment and paying income tax and PRSI should not be excluded to qualify for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment Scheme.
- The Joint Committee notes the Department’s commitment to resolve difficulties encountered by staff in Aer Lingus getting their applications for payments processed and recommends that the Department engages with the company to ensure such difficulties are not repeated in the future,
To view the report and for more information about the work of the Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands, see below: