Brid Smith claims 'sneaky' PUP move undermines notion that got country through Covid-19

Brid Smith claims 'sneaky' PUP move undermines notion that got country through Covid-19

People Before Profit TD, Brid Smith claimed there is an “element of discrimination” in the changes to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. Picture: Collins

The Government is being accused of being "sneaky" over the way it has handled the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).

People on the payment must now be genuinely looking for work under legislation passed through the Dáil last night.

Up to 104 people had the payment cut recently for going abroad.

The Government has said recipients were never allowed to travel abroad, but official guidance on the payment was only updated on Monday morning.

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, People Before Profit TD, Brid Smith said she does not like the way it has been dealt with, claiming there is an “element of discrimination” in the policy.

“I just found the whole thing so sneaky,” she said.

“They have been stopping people at the airport, checking their social protection number and saying, ‘if you are on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and you are travelling on a non-essential basis, then your payment is being cut.’ 

“That wasn’t an announcement. We are very good at making announcements around this pandemic. There are lots of very clear advertisements that are repeated and repeated. This was never announced.”

Ms Smith said the Government has now passed laws that “treat one sector of the population way different than anybody else.” 

That is undermining the very notion that kept us together and got us through the pandemic in the safest way possible.

“That is the idea that we are all in this together and we all should be treated the same.

"They have now separated out a cohort of people and said, ‘no well actually you are going to be treated differently. You are going to be grounded on the basis that you can’t take holidays because you should be seeking work.

“I just think that is the wrong message. It is unfair and it penalises one particular cohort against another.”

Ms Smith added that TDs were never told about the changes.

“The government brought through a statutory instrument without telling us,” she said.

“I am in Dáil Éireann. We sit down every week and we look at the schedule and we see what is coming up and what is on the agenda. They told nobody.

“Then, last night, they put it into legislation because it became public knowledge that they were actually implementing a measure which is against the notion of social solidarity during the pandemic.” 

She noted that people are on the payment because their jobs are not available “through no fault of their own”. 

“It is not like they are sitting around at home waiting for things to land on their lap. It is because of public health measures their jobs are not available.” 

The Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys has suggested that the vast majority of those who had their payment stopped were leaving the country permanently.

Deputy Smith said the government has failed to bring forward any evidence to back up the claim.

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