Tipperary Labour leader Alan Kelly: new laws on PUP 'discriminatory'
Tipperary TD and Labour leader Alan Kelly has claimed that cutting people off the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) because they travel abroad or take a holiday is unlawful.
A Bill introduced by Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, which includes a clause people have to be genuinely looking for work to receive the payment, has been passed by the Dáil and will seek Seanad approval to put it on a statuary footing.
Under the new rule, the payment is "not payable for any period spent outside of Ireland". The payment is also cut off for recipients, who have to reapply on return to Ireland. People who have to self-isolate after returning home will not be paid for that period.
Deputy Kelly said the new rules were "disgraceful and discriminatory" against poor people.
He said the statutory instrument Minister Humphreys introduced has no legal basis, however.
Minister Humphreys said that if somebody is leaving the state for essential reason like a family bereavement or a sick relative they can contact the social welfare office, and their payment will not be stopped.
"She said last night that a common sense approach would be taken. Common sense is not definable in law," said Deputy Kelly.
He said that if passed, the Bill would discriminate against those who can not afford holidays.
"The whole issue about reasonable grounds for actually casting a net across ports and airports and effectively interrogating people as regards their social welfare status, given the changes that have been mishandled by the Minister," he said.
"This is a mess. The differential here is that what they're saying is that the people who are on PUP payments, who were working hard and paying their taxes, are being discriminated against as regards going on holidays.
"Obviously we prefer people not to be leaving the country, but to say that for some people they can leave the country if they're rich enough and for others if they are poor or on the PUP payment, they can't, that is not the Ireland of 2020, that is disgraceful and discriminatory," said Deputy Kelly.
He said that the solidarity shown during Covid-19 "went out the window last night, because of discriminatory changes brought in by this Government".
“This is about the changes that have been brought about by the current Minister to discriminate against people who are on PUP payments, who were working, and lost their jobs,” he added.
“Many of these people are waiting. Take bar workers, take people working in some of the hospitality industry, take people who are working in some areas around the leisure industry.
“They are waiting to come back to work based on the next phase of the implementation of our reopening time.
“They have a legitimate expectation not to be treated like this, so this is discrimination and it is a real absolute change by this government as regards the basis upon which bringing people together in solidarity," he said.