For many people who were already in receipt of a Jobseeker’s Payment before the COVID-19 pandemic struck little has changed for them financially, unless they were in receipt of the Fuel Allowance and were claiming for a Qualified Adult. While their prospects of securing decent employment in the foreseeable future have become far more challenging.
The majority of people on a Jobseeker’s payment collected it at their local post office through an Electronic Information Transfer (EIT). Given the measures taken to manage this pandemic, and in particular the social distancing rules, it was announced that from March 23rd, people would receive two weeks entitlement in a single payment. People in receipt of a Jobseekers payment were paid for 2 weeks during the week beginning March 30th, 2020.
So what happens if a Jobseeker becomes unwell or needs to self-isolate?
The Department of Employment Affair and Social Protection (DEASP) have said that people can do one of the following:
- They can leave their social welfare payment at the post office until they can collect it themselves. The DEASP have made arrangements with An Post that Post Offices will hold social welfare payments for an extended period. So, all Post Office payments will be available for collection for 90 days after they are first due for collection; or
- They can nominate a temporary Agent to collect their payment. The form to do this is on the An Post website or at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/6aca97-social-welfare-contacts/#direct-payment-to-an-account-in-a-financial-institution or
- They can ask the DEASP to transfer their payment to their bank account, through an alternative method known as Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) , which is the main option for people receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. The form is available at https://www.gov.ie/en/service/8ace3a-change-amend-your-bank-details/
Post Office Temporary Closures and Time Changes
On their website An Post note that their mail, parcel and Post Office service / networks are working as normally as possible across Ireland. However, as a result of Covid-19, they have had to make some changes including temporary Post Office closures and changes to opening times. Readers can find out if their Post Office is affected by following this link https://www.anpost.com/Media-Centre/News/COVID-19-Customer-Notice
Signing-on or not
Callers to the INOU’s Welfare Rights Information Team had raised questions about whether or not they were expected to sign-on at or engage with their local Intreo / Social Welfare Office. Given the current circumstances, the demands on the DEASP with so many people losing their jobs, the call for people to maintain social / physical distancing, callers were concerned what would happen if they did not turn up for their appointment.
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection have confirmed for us that:
- All signing has been suspended until further notice;
- All activation engagements have been cancelled; and
- All Penalty Rates have been lifted.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, on March 31st, 2020 the Government announced they would extend the Fuel Allowance season by four weeks. So, instead of finishing on Friday April 10th, 2020, it will run until Friday May 8th, 2020. The Fuel Allowance is currently paid at a rate of €24.50 per week, and now this year will run for 32 weeks.
Starting from the week beginning March 24th and for a twelve week period up until the week of June 15th, the Qualified Adult payment was increased from €134.70 to €147.
The DEASP have confirmed to the INOU that a Qualified Adult who has lost their work and is now fully unemployed can apply for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment in their own right. They also note that the Qualified Adult should make a Jobseeker’s application in their own right. And if applicable, their partner’s claim will be adjusted, but that this would most likely happen at a later date given their volume of work.
Revised Intreo Centres Opening Hours
On Friday April 3rd the DEASP announced that all of their public offices would only open to the public from 10 am to 1 pm on Fridays, Mondays and Wednesdays. In the week of April 13th Intreo / Social Welfare Offices opened on Tuesday 14th instead of the Bank Holiday Monday, and this arrangement was carried through into the week beginning April 20th. For the latest information on these opening hours and any temporary closures please follow this link https://www.gov.ie/en/news/67e0b4-customer-notices/#intreo-centre-notices
The INOU is aware that these reducing opening hours create difficulties for people who may be in need of supplementary supports and would benefit from one-to-one advice, a challenging situation in the midst of a public health crisis.