Regina Doherty: People not gaming the system on pandemic unemployment payment

There will be no clawback of payments made to those on the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) who are also in receipt of other state supports.
Regina Doherty: People not gaming the system on pandemic unemployment payment

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty

There will be no clawback of payments made to those on the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) who are also in receipt of other state supports.

Regina Doherty, the outgoing social protection minister, told the Dáil on Thursday that the idea money would be taken back, as had been suggested by some commentators last week, was "shameful".

She was speaking as TDs approved a €6.8bn addition to the social protection budget. Ms Doherty said had the spending limits for her department not been approved, the "money would have run out next week".

Ms Doherty also denied that people are "gaming the system".

"Can I just disassociate myself and anybody who has wrongly intimated that people are gaming the system," she said in the Dáil.

"Yes, there is fraud, and there is fraud in every system and every other country. There is nobody gaming the system.

“There are some people earning more from (the PUP) than they would have been earning."

Fianna Fáil TD Willie O'Dea said certainty was needed on the length of time pandemic-related payments would continue. Mr O'Dea said he was happy families would not face a "cliff edge" drop from €350 a week to €204, but that certainty on how long they would have that comfort was needed.

"I can’t believe what I’m not hearing," he said.

“We’re being asked today to vote in the house on a sum of €6.840bn in increased money for social welfare payments, which I welcome, of course, but without any information as to the future of this particular payment.”

Áontú leader Peadar Tóibín said the Government had used "hocus pocus" estimates.

"These estimates are made on the basis that the Covid payments are stopped in a fortnight. Yet the Government states that these payments won’t be stopped."

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said the Government had sent "mixed messages" on the payment.

"The Taoiseach has said on the one hand there is no reason for people to fear, that the current emergency payments will continue as they are.

"Then he went on to say that no decision has been made yet, the Cabinet hasn't made a decision and indeed it might be a decision for a future government or a new government. It can't be both."

Social Democrat TD Gary Gannon said the assurance that money will not be clawed back is welcome.

“There has been so much discussion regarding the PUP – whether that be about so-called abuse, tapering’s, clawbacks, etc - that people who are in receipt of it and struggling to keep their heads afloat are living in a constant state of fear and it seems there’s almost a stigma being generated by virtue of such conversations.

"We have to recognise that this payment is the only thing standing between so many households and the breadline."

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