Unfair that people on 'normal social welfare' get less than PUP, Minister says

ireland
Unfair That People On 'Normal Social Welfare' Get Less Than Pup, Minister Says
The Minister said that it was not fair that people who lost their job in early 2020 were receiving less on “normal” social welfare than those on the PUP.
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Vivienne Clarke

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath has said that it was not fair that people who lost their job in early 2020 were receiving less on “normal” social welfare than those on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).

“We have to be fair to everybody,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

When asked if he thought there were people refusing to return to work because of PUP, Mr McGrath said there was anecdotal evidence, and that it was necessary to strike “a fair and proportionate balance”.

The Minister said that the economic plan that will be announced by the Government today included much about which to be confident about the country’s post pandemic recovery. Businesses were open and consumers were spending while the OECD was forecasting growth of over 4 per cent in the economy this year and five percent next year.

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Mr McGrath said that the Government had spent over €28 billion across 2020 and 2021 in additional expenditure which was appropriate.

EU grants

He added that the Government intended to draw down €950 million in EU grants for spending projects and reform initiatives between now and the end of 2022 and further outlined that €7.5 billion had been spent on PUP supports and €6 billion on the wage subsidy scheme.

Details will be announced today about the extension of supports to protect employment and help people to get back to work, he said, “so we can make choices to rebuild the economy”.

An extension of PUP beyond June, would be announced, he said, but he warned that there would be a tapering off of the payments, which would be done “in a careful and gradual way” to a more regular social welfare system.

Pandemic-related payments had been introduced for a specific reason, he said. However, the payments were a significant cost to the State. The Government wanted to help people to return to work.

Mr McGrath said the number of people on PUP was expected to fall significantly in the coming weeks as businesses reopen, with 25,000 to 30,000 people coming off the payment each week.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty has accused the Government of “pulling the rug” from under people on PUP with their plans to reduce the payment by €50 per week from September.

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Mr Doherty told RTE radio’s Morning Ireland that there was “a moral obligation” to support those who could not go back to work because of public health guidelines.

Supports

The supports would be phased out naturally as people started to go back to work, he said, over 125,000 had already gone back to work since restrictions eased this year.

Not everyone would be able to go back to work in September due to public health restrictions, he said. Workers in aviation, event management, hospitality and other sectors would still be restricted from returning to work, but the Government was effectively saying ‘we are cutting your supports and forget about we're all in it together'.

“The Government has pulled the rug from under these people by reducing supports” and had strayed from the principle of supporting those for whom there were barriers on a return to work because of public health guidelines, he said.

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