Pandemic unemployment payment recipients will now be allowed holiday abroad in countries deemed safe after a significant u-turn by the government over a clampdown on claimants.
Social protection minister Heather Humphreys surprised the Dáil by confirming she had told officials to allow PUP claimants to visit countries on the travel green list without facing penalties.
The government had faced accusations of targeting PUP claimants, including many artists, entertainers and pub workers, whose industries remain shuttered by the pandemic.
Ms Humphreys said, “I have listened to the concerns expressed in recent days in relation to people whose payment was stopped due to the fact they were travelling abroad on a holiday. I know that there are cases where people may have travelled abroad and genuinely not been aware of the travel guidance or criteria which applied to the PUP.
“I accept that my department could have communicated more effectively on this issue. For that reason, I have directed my department to review all cases to date where people went on holiday and had their payment stopped.
“Since the regulations relating to jobseekers were signed on 10 July, the Government’s travel advice has changed with the publication of the green list last week. On that basis, and in line with the Government’s travel advice, I have now asked my officials to amend the regulations so that people on jobseeker's payments who wish to travel to any of the countries on the green list can do so and continue to receive their payment.”
In line with now allowing general welfare claimants holiday abroad, those on PUP could also do the same, she said.
“That will mean persons on PUP can travel to green list countries and their payment will not be impacted.”
However, she stressed that, as with jobseeker's payments, people travelling to countries outside the green list can only do so for essential reasons.
The legislation to put the PUP on a statutory footing was only passed on Tuesday night. It included strict rules for claimants, including the provision that they must be “genuinely seeking” work.
This, coupled with checks at airports, has prompted TDs to question the statutory footing by which policing of the payment is being enforced.
TDs deemed the situation “stupid” and akin to “a police state” while legal campaigners and advocates for the unemployed questioned the legislation governing the docking of PUP claims.
Ms Humphreys has reiterated that anyone claiming PUP, but no longer living here, should have payments stopped. She has also said that of 2,500 PUP claims stopped since March, the vast majority of these, over 90%, relate to people who were permanently leaving the country.
While the PUP has been extended until next April, the government says it will keep all regulations on the payment under review.
It has also been confirmed that almost half of those in receipt of PUP have now ended their claim. At its peak, some 598,000 people accessed the PUP. Of those, more than 272,000 of them have now moved off the payment.