Changes to Covid welfare payment ‘discriminatory’

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Press Association
Labour leader Alan Kelly has said that people receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) are being “discriminated” against under new legislation passed by the Dail last night.

Mr Kelly also said that the decision to withhold the payment from people travelling abroad has no basis in law.

Despite widespread opposition from TDs, new legislation was passed that requires people in receipt of the PUP to be actively seeking work.

It will now be sent to the Seanad for consideration.

It emerged earlier this week that the Government has cut the PUP to more than 100 people who travelled abroad following checks at airports.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said people on the payment should be seeking work and Government advice states people should avoid non-essential travel abroad.

However, according to the Department of Social Protection, more than 90% of those individuals were leaving the country permanently.

Mr Kelly called for a breakdown of those figures.

“There is an issue about reasonable grounds for actually casting the net across ports and airports and effectively interrogating people as regards their social welfare status, given the changes that have been mishandled by the Minister (Heather Humphreys),” Mr Kelly added.

“We’ve come through a pandemic, we’ve done our best, there’s been a huge amount of solidarity, but that solidarity went out the window last night because of the discriminatory changes effectively brought in by this Government.

“I believe that the actions that have been taken against a certain cohort of people to date have no basis in law until the Bill that was brought forward in the Dail is actually signed by the President in the coming days, or weeks.”

Mr Kelly described the handling of the changes as “a mess”.

“This is about the changes that have been brought about by the current Minister to discriminate against people who are on PUP payments, who were working, and lost their jobs,” he added.

“Many of these people are waiting. Take bar workers, take people working in some of the hospitality industry, take people who are working in some areas around the leisure industry.

“They are waiting to come back to work based on the next phase of the implementation of our reopening time.

“They have a legitimate expectation not to be treated like this, so this is discrimination and it is a real absolute change by this government as regards the basis upon which bringing people together in solidarity.”

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