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Less than one in 10 who appealed the cut in their Pandemic Unemployment Payment have had it restored

Around 10,000 people appealed after having their PUP reduced from €350 to €203 a week.

Image: Shutterstock/nep0

AROUND 10,000 PEOPLE who had their Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) cut from €350 to €203 last month appealed the measure, but less than one-tenth of them have been successful so far.

But another 5,300 or so people are still awaiting the results of their appeal, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has said. 

Most of the people who’ve submitted appeals to have their €350 payment reinstated are self-employed, after changes to the PUP scheme took effect from 7 July. 

Of the 10,000 or so who appealed, officials at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection have so far processed 4,640 cases.

Only 920 of these cases have seen people have their payment of €350 restored.

The PUP has been a source of controversy for the government in recent weeks. Originally introduced for those who’d lost their job/source of income as a result of Covid-19 and the restrictions shutting down many workplaces, at its height it had over 600,000 recipients in a week.

However, the government has said in the past week that those still in receipt of the payment – around 287,000 people – should be seeking work. This guidance on needing to be genuinely seeking work changed on government websites over last weekend. 

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Heather Humphreys told RTÉ’s News at One during the week that in the case of people who still aren’t permitted to go back to work – such as bar staff in pubs that don’t serve food – they don’t have to be looking for work.

“But if you find that you’re going to be permanently unemployed because your job isn’t there, then you should be looking for work,” she said.

Another headache for the government over the PUP was the controversy around welfare inspectors conducting inspections at Dublin Airport. The government eventually u-turned on the issue and said that people receiving PUP can travel to Green List countries without losing their payment. 

On Tuesday, 78,002 people received the €203 rate of the PUP which is down from 110,284 people who received this rate of payment on 7 July. A further 208,900 people received the €350 rate last Tuesday. 

For self-employed persons, whether or not they fell to the lower rate of the PUP was calculated using their gross average weekly income for 2018. 

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Minister Humphreys, in response to parliamentary questions from Solidarity PBP’s Bríd Smith, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and Fianna Fáil’s Paul McAuliffe, said figures from a self-employed person’s 2018 income were used as this was the “last tax year for which verifiable data on self-employed income is available”. 

She said: “Any person who feels that the assessment of their earnings, based on returns already submitted to Revenue, is inaccurate can ask for a review of their case.  To date approximately 10,000 requests for a review have been received, with the majority of these received on the 7 and 8 July. 

The majority of requests have come from self-employed individuals. To date, my officials have cleared 4,640 cases, of which 920 have been successful. The successful cases primarily related to  the absence of earnings details on a self-employed person’s contribution history due to outstanding tax and PRSI liabilities.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Bríd Smith said she’d been contacted by many constituents in Dublin South-Central about the difficulties they’re facing on the lower rate of the PUP.

“We’ve had lots of musicians, taxi drivers and artists on to us,” she said. “The calculation of their earnings from the previous year doesn’t reflect what they’d have been earning now. On the reduced payment, it’s really difficult.

I think it’s a real failure of the government. There has to be tens of thousands of people out there really hurting.

Smith said that the matter had been raised with the government on multiple occasions in the Dáil this week – particularly on how it’s affecting self-employed people. 

“Take artists and musicians,” she said. “They can’t get work right now because venues are closed. They need to be offered supports. We have to do more.”

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Sean Murray

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