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State should not 'pay people to ignore public health advice' - Humphreys

The Social Protection Minister says the State should not be “paying people to ignore its own pu...
Michael Staines
Michael Staines

10.24 28 Jul 2020


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State should not 'pay people t...

State should not 'pay people to ignore public health advice' - Humphreys

Michael Staines
Michael Staines

10.24 28 Jul 2020


Share this article


The Social Protection Minister says the State should not be “paying people to ignore its own public health advice.”

It comes after 104 people had their Pandemic Unemployment Payment stopped because they flew abroad.

Meanwhile, 44 standard social welfare payments were also shut down as a result of checks at airports.

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Under previous social welfare rules, claimants were permitted to travel outside the country for two weeks without having their payment affected.

Meanwhile, the qualifying criteria for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) previously made no mention of international travel.

The PUP guidance was updated yesterday to include a stipulation that only people who are “genuinely seeking work” can apply.

The airport checks have been taking place since July 7th.

"Not normal circumstnaces"

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys insisted the Government had a legal right to stop payments to people for travelling.

“Under normal circumstances, there is a flexibility under social welfare legislation where a person on Jobseekers can travel abroad for up to two weeks and it does not impact their payment,” she said.

“We are not in normal circumstances here. We are in the middle of a pandemic so, in that context, in order to protect people’s lives, we have temporarily suspended the flexibility that people can continue to receive their unemployment payment when abroad.”

"Blatant discrimination"

The move has caused anger and confusion among recipients of the payments, and the Taoiseach has ordered an investigation into the change to the Department of Social Protection’s website over the weekend.

On Lunchtime Live yesterday, RISE TD Paul Murphy said it was “blatant discrimination” to target people on welfare payments, while the rest of the population are free to do as they wish.

On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, solicitor and director of Data Compliance Europe said the update appeared to be a case of “legislation by press release."

Self-isolation

Minister Humphreys said anyone receiving a Jobseekers payment must be available for work.

“So, if a person chooses to ignore public health advice and go on holidays, they are not just unavailable for work for the duration of their holiday, they are also unavailable for the two-week quarantine period on their return,” she said.

She noted that the green list can be updated at any time and people that travel expecting to be able to return without quarantining could also find themselves unavailable for work.

“The green list is not a list of holiday destinations and the public health advice is still not to go abroad,” she said.

“If you look at the UK, holiday makers last week discovered that while they were on a Spanish holiday, Spain was removed from a green list to a red list.

“Those people have now returned home and they have to quarantine for 14 days – they didn’t think that was going to be in place.”

Minister Humphreys claimed some of the people who had their payments cut were leaving the country permanently.

“I don’t think the State should be paying people to ignore its own public health advice and that is what we would be doing,” she said.


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