The end of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment is a chance to bring in social welfare payments that keep people above the poverty line, according to People Before Profit.
Last week, just short of 45,000 people received their final payment and the last remaining recipients are today being moved across to Jobseekers’ payments.
It brings the emergency scheme to a close after two years and €9bn.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said it’s time to offer social welfare payments that keep people out of poverty.
“For me, what is shows it that, when anybody could face the prospect of becoming unemployed due to no fault of their own, it was possible - and it was possible quite quickly - for a scheme to be put in place that meant people were not getting an income below the poverty line,” he said.
“They were getting an income of €350 per week – which is a minimal amount, but it was amount people felt, OK someone could actually survive on that.
“For me, the point is, if we can do that at a time of pandemic why is it OK outside of pandemic to have people on Disability Allowance, Carers’ Allowance or Jobseekers’ Allowance to be paid substantially less than the poverty line?
“To be on just over €200 per week and expected to struggle on and survive.”
He said social welfare increase could be introduced over time, noting that People Before Profit last year called for a €25 increase.
He said the increase would have cost the Exchequer €1.9bn and said it could have ben paid for through a 2% increase to employers’ PRSI.
“Ireland is the fifth richest country in the world per capita,” he said. “I know people don’t experience that but that is because the wealth is largely hoarded and accumulated at the top.
“If we, instead of running society in the interests of the 1% of society and ran it in the interests of the majority, it is perfectly possible to have social welfare rates that are above the rate of poverty.”
Deputy Murphy said a 2% increase to employers’ PRSI would still leave it at about 60% of the EU average.
“That gives you a glimpse of the outstanding wealth that still exists here that we as a society should be able to say OK, we just don’t think it is acceptable for people on Disability Allowance or Carers’ Allowance or Jobseekers’ Allowance to be asked to try to survive on less than the poverty line,” he said.
“The point is during the pandemic, anybody could become unemployed and that is why the Government said oh let’s re-look at what people need to survive.”
First introduced at a flat rate of €350 per week, the universal payment supported tens of thousands of people through COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
Nearly 900,000 people received at least one payment during the lifetime of the scheme.
You can listen back to Deputy Murphy here: