Sinn Féin calls for Government to delay planned PUP cuts

Party also warns against plan to transition some recipients to jobseeker’s allowance

Sinn Féin’s Claire Kerrane has said she would like to see the current PUP rates stay in place until the end of the year at least.   File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Sinn Féin’s Claire Kerrane has said she would like to see the current PUP rates stay in place until the end of the year at least. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Sinn Féin has called on the Government to delay planned cuts to the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) on September 7th, saying that this will unjustly affect people in the arts and entertainment sector who are not allowed to return to work because of current Covid-19 restrictions.

The party’s social protection spokeswoman, Claire Kerrane, also called on the Government not to go ahead with its plans for those who are now on the lowest rate of PUP to start to transition to jobseeker’s allowance, which unlike the PUP is means-tested.

The three rates of PUP at present are €350, €300 and €250 a week, depending on the prior earnings of recipients. Those rates will fall to €300, €250 and €203 respectively on September 7th. Critically, those on the lowest rate will have to register for jobseeker’s allowance and will thus have to show they are seeking work, or doing training.

Ms Kerrane said this plan was not equitable for those in the entertainment and arts sector who had found themselves without work because of the continuing restrictions on their work. She said it would be hardest for those in that cohort who were already on the lowest rate of PUP who would now have to go into the jobseekers category.

“I don’t see how we can possibly be in a situation in two weeks’ time when the arts and entertainment sectors are going to reopen overnight,” she said.

“How can we say to people, we are putting you on to jobseeker’s, when they are not unemployed, they are not jobseekers,” she said.

“On the one hand they are not allowed to work, and on the other hand, getting their income support is vital.”

Explanation

Speaking outside Leinster House, Ms Kerrane called on Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys to explain to people why the changes were being implemented despite restrictions still being in place.

Ms Kerrane said she would like to see the current PUP rates stay in place until the end of the year at least.

Responding to a suggestion that the Government could not continue funding PUP indefinitely, Ms Kerrane said she appreciated that billions of euros had been spent.

“It’s been an important support. What I would like to see is the rate of €203 remain as a PUP rate rather than moving that cohort of people, 29,000 last week, onto the jobseeker’s payment.

“We are going to see people getting only €40 to €50 a week, especially young people living at home.

“Their rate is not €203 on the jobseeker’s payment. It is on PUP. It’s €112.70 maximum on jobseeker’s for 18- to 24-year-olds.

“They are going to be on the floor when it comes to income,” she said.

As of last week, 153,000 people were receiving PUP payments, a figure that was 70 per cent down compared with February.

That was in addition to 184,213 people on the live register.

The PUP payments are going to be tapered down between now and February 2022, by which point all rates will have been reduced to €203 and all those who will have received PUP until then will have been transitioned to the jobseeker’s payment.