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Direct Provision residents will now be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Direct Provision residents were previously excluded from applying for the payment.

Image: Shutterstock/Irish Drone Photography

ELIGIBILITY FOR THE Pandemic Unemployment Payment has now been extended to people living in Direct Provision after they were originally excluded from the scheme.

The payment has been made available this week to people live in Direct Provision centres, as well as applicants for international protection who live outside of the Direct Provision system.

Liz Canavan, Assistant General Secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach, said that the payment is “payable where a person meets the conditions of the scheme:  they must have been in employment immediately before 13 March, lost their employment because of the pandemic and are not in receipt of income from their employer”.

In a speech on Tuesday evening, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that people living in Direct Provision would be treated the same as citizens in relation to Covid-19 social protection.

“Following reports that there was an issue with people in Direct Provision settings being reluctant to come forward for tests because of fear of losing income, we have decided that, lest there be any doubt, Direct Provision residents will be treated the same as any other citizen in terms of social protection supports when it comes to Covid-19,” Martin said.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Bulelani Mfaco, spokesperson for the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI), said that the organisation was disappointed the government had not originally included Direct Provision residents in the scheme.

One group particularly impacted has been parents with children living in Direct Provision, who have depended on charitable donations while homeschooling their children during the closure of schools, Mfaco said.

“We hope that it will be backdated because a lot of people impacted by the pandemic in Direct Provision would have been working and contributing like anybody else in the country,” he said.

CEO of Nasc, an Irish migrant and refugee rights organisation, Fiona Finn said that the decision earlier in the year to “exclude asylum seekers who were living in direct provision from accessing the Pandemic Unemployment Payment was unjust and discriminatory”.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Finn said that Nasc had been approached by direct provision residents who were “devastated by the loss of income from employment which they and their families had been relying on as well as by employers who were deeply concerned about the welfare of their employees and very uncomfortable that their asylum-seeking employees were being treated differently to their other employees”.

“Some direct provision residents simply couldn’t afford to stop working, particularly those whose families outside of Ireland were entirely reliant on their income, and felt they had to jeopardise their own health and continue to go from a high-risk workplace to a congregated accommodation setting,” Finn said.

“With the recent Covid-19 clusters, we are now seeing the public health consequences of this decision.”

The Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment has been made available to employees and people who are self-employed who lost their job since 13 March due to the pandemic.

Applications for the payment are due to close on 17 September. After that, new applicants seeking support will be directed to other social welfare schemes, and the rate of payment will gradually change until the PUP ends in April 2021.

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From 17 September, three rates of payment will be introduced for people receiving PUP. People who previously earned less than €200 a week will receive €203, people who earned between €200 and €300 will receive €250, and those who earned over €300 will receive a payment of €300.

By April 2021, the payments rates are due be tapered back to the standard jobseeker payment of €203 a week.

Direct Provision residents receive a weekly allowance, known as the Daily Expenses Allowance, of €29.80 for children and €38.80 for adults.

In May, the Irish Refugee Council requested that the government increase the weekly allowance by €20 during the pandemic.

In response, former Minister of Employment and Social Protection Regina Doherty said that “any increases to the rate of Daily Expenses Allowance would have to be approved by Government and considered in a budgetary context”.

Doherty said that there were “no plans to grant entitlement to the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment for those in receipt of Daily Expenses Allowance”.

There are around 4,700 adults and 2,000 children living in Direct Provision in Ireland.    

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