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Humphreys promises 'common sense approach' on whether people on PUP are 'genuinely seeking work'

The Dáil passed legislation this evening that gave the payment a legal basis and said that those in receipt of it must be “genuinely seeking” work.

MInister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys.
MInister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys.
Image: Oireachtas.ie

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL Protection Heather Humphreys has said officials in her department will “take a common sense approach” in relation to people on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) who are required to seek work. 

The Dáil passed legislation this evening that gave the payment a legal basis and said that those in receipt of it must be “genuinely seeking” work.

An amendment to remove that condition was jointly proposed by the TDs from Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and People Before Profit but that amendment was defeated by the government parties of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party.  

The PUP was introduced by the previous government for people whose jobs had been lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant government restrictions brought in to contain it.

Speaking this evening during a lengthy Dáil debate in the Convention Centre, Humphreys said some people in receipt of the payment are “waiting for their jobs to come back” while others will not see their job return. 

The minister was responding to questions about whether people who have temporarily lost their jobs are now required to seek work to continue availing of the payment.

“In relation to people looking for work and I know there are some sectors that haven’t opened up yet and hopefully the remainder of those will be allowed to open on 10 August,” the minister said.

But the department, in terms of making sure people are looking for work, they will take a common sense approach. So if you’re in a sector that is waiting to reopen soon, then that’s okay, that’s fully understandable that you’re waiting for your job to come back. 

“But unfortunately, a lot of people won’t be, you know, returning to their jobs. And that is why we want to help them get back into new jobs,” Humphreys added.

Travel abroad

The government has also been facing increasing criticism over a policy that has seen people in receipt of the PUP lose the benefit due to travel abroad

Under normal circumstances, claimants availing of Jobseeker’s Allowance or Jobseeker’s Benefit can go on holiday for a maximum of two weeks and receive the two weeks payment on their return.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening, Humphreys said this flexibility never applied to the PUP and added that it has been “temporarily suspended” in the case of Jobseeker’s Allowance or Jobseeker’s Benefit” due to the public health advice not to travel abroad.

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The minister nonetheless said there are exemptions under which people can travel abroad without losing their PUP if the inform social welfare officials.

“We are asking people to adhere to the public health advice and to not travel abroad. If you have to travel for essential reasons, if you have a bereavement, or if you have a family member unwell, or you need to go for health reasons, you can travel and your payment will not be impacted,” the minister said.

And I just want to be very clear on that, you just need to tell your social welfare office that you’re going abroad, and the payment will not be interrupted.

Speaking during the same debate, Labour TD Seán Sherlock said there is likely to be an increasing number of reasons why people on the PUP have to travel. 

“As time goes by, there may be an increase of people on the PUP going abroad seeking work, so their entitlement to a stable income needs to be secured,” he said.

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Rónán Duffy

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