By James Ward, PA
Sinn Féin have called on the Government to maintain the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) at its current rate until the end of the year.
TD Claire Kerrane has said the Social Protection Minister, Heather Humphries, must make a statement about planned changes to the income support scheme coming in mid-September.
The party’s social protection spokeswoman said the changes will disproportionately affect young people and those working in the live entertainment sector.
From September 14th, the PUP will be cut by €50, and recipients will start being moved to the Jobseeker’s Allowance which, unlike the PUP, is means tested.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has warned that the government cannot go into hiding to avoid scrutiny of upcoming cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment@ClaireKerrane https://t.co/vOljFwsjna pic.twitter.com/XsFRAVqxDZ
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) August 23, 2021
Ms Kerrane said: “That will see people in the likes of the arts and entertainment sector, who on the one hand are being told they’re not allowed to work, and on the other hand getting their vital income supports cut.
“Minister Humphreys has not been seen all summer in relation to the pandemic unemployment payments.
“She hasn’t spoken about the changes that are coming up.
“She hasn’t come out to explain to people who are not allowed to work, who are abiding by Covid restrictions by not going to work, she hasn’t come out to explain to them why in less than two weeks’ time she is cutting their income supports.”
Ms Kerrane said she would like to see the PUP remain “at least until the end of the year at its current rates”.
She said people working in the arts and entertainment industry were not going to see the sector “reopen overnight”.
She added: “So how can we say to those workers and their families, that we are cutting your PUP, that we’re moving you on to job seekers, even though you are not unemployed, you’re not jobseekers.
“They will face the repercussions of that. That means the entire household income is taken into account, people being obliged to seek work.
“Yet at the same time, their industries are closed, they’re not jobseekers.”
She said plans if cuts are to be made, it should remain as a PUP payment rather than a Jobseeker’s payment, “because that’s going to be a very, very different situation.”
For people aged 18 to 24 who are living at home, the maximum rate of payment on the Jobseeker’s Allowance is €112.70, while on the PUP it is €203.
Ms Kerrane said: “A lot of those young people are living at home. So their entire household income, their parents, a brother or sister that’s working (is taken into account).
“They’re going to be on the floor when it comes to income.
“The only way to protect them is to keep that PUP rate at €203, which in two weeks’ time will be gone.”
Meanwhile, stakeholders from the live entertainment say the Government has shown a “blatant disregard” for the sector, as it remains shut while 40,000 people were allowed to attend Sunday’s All Ireland hurling final in Croke Park.
The umbrella group the Entertainment Industry Alliance, noted the attendance of Taoiseach Micheál Martin at the final, and called on him to attend a planned meeting with Culture Minister Catherine Martin on Wednesday.
Spokesman Justin Green said: “This is a shameful indictment of Government, which demonstrates a clear and blatant disregard for the live entertainment and event sector, and shows complete contempt for every Irish citizen.”
The Department of Social Protection has been contacted for comment.