The Pandemic Unemployment Payment was due to end on the 30th of June 2021 but has now been extended into 2022, with a gradual reduction of rates from September. New applications for PUP will end on July 7th, though applications will remain open to students until the beginning of the 21/22 college year. The current hope is that as more of the population are vaccinated and the economy reopens most PUP recipients will be able to return to their pre-pandemic employment by September.
The reduction in rates will be at a rate of €50 every two months, and will take place on the 7th September 2021, the 16th November 2021, and the final cut will be on the 8th February 2022. Though payments will not be reduced to an amount which is less than the Jobseekers payment or other social welfare income support for which the claimant is qualified.
As the rates for PUP are reduced, claimants may find that they would be better off with another welfare payment. PUP is a single payment without any add-on payments, whereas Jobseekers and Disability payments can be supplemented with payments for both adult and child dependents. This means that a supplemented payment could be paid at a higher rate than PUP.
The primary option for those looking at other welfare payments will be to apply for Jobseekers Benefit or Jobseekers Allowance. Jobseekers Benefit will be available for 6 months to those with 156 or more PRSI contributions since their last claim and 9 months for those with 260 or more PRSI contributions. For those with less than 156 PRSI contributions, they will need to apply for Jobseekers Allowance which is a means tested payment. Both payments have a maximum payment of €203 with additional payments of €134.70 for a dependent adult and €45 for a dependent child under twelve, with rates being reduced for 18–24-year-olds not living independently, without children.
As it stands, it is a prerequisite of receiving Jobseekers that recipients must genuinely be seeking “suitable employment.” This has not been enforced during the pandemic due to lockdown and restrictions on businesses making enforcement impractical, but it will be enforced at some stage in the future when restrictions have been lifted. Welfare recipients should be advised that the department’s definition of “suitable employment” can often be at odds with the recipients. Especially those who are highly qualified in specific areas who may find the department pushing them to seek work outside of their field and/or salary expectations.
As a result of the pandemic there has been a large increase in people who are unable to return to work because of long-term physical ailment due to long-covid, and mental health issues. These people will be eligible to apply for Disability Allowance. To qualify for this payment an applicant must “have an injury, disease or physical or mental disability that has continued, or may be expected to continue for at least one year.” This disability should leave an applicant “substantially restricted in undertaking work that would otherwise be suitable for a person of your age, experience and qualifications.”
The maximum payments for Disability Allowance are largely the same as Jobseekers Allowance. Like Jobseekers Allowance, Disability Allowance is means tested, but unlike Jobseekers it does not have the requirement to ‘genuinely be seeking work.' Applicants will also need to have their own doctor fill out a medical report on their condition, as part of the application forms, at their own expense, which will be reviewed by the department's medical assessors.
For those who are expected to be out of work for at least two years there is the option to apply for Invalidity Pension. An applicant can apply for this after a year of Disability Allowance, or in serious cases where the applicant will be permanently out of work they can go immediately from their job, or other welfare payment to this payment. The Invalidity Pension is paid at the higher rate of €208.50 per week with an additional €148.90 for an adult dependent, and €38 for a child under 12 and €45 for a child over 12.
When returning to work, a welfare recipient can take up part time work and still receive a partial payment. If you are working for up to three days a week you can receive a payment for the day(s) you do not work. This does not, unfortunately, account for part-time work that is spread across all five days as it is calculated in days and not hours. Most importantly for those seeking Disability Allowance, the partial payment for part-time work can only be received by those going from JB, JA or DA to part-time work, and cannot be received by those already employed. Even if they are reducing their hours due to disability.
For those already employed whose employer has reduced their hours, they can avail of the Short-Time Work Support payment which in function is the same as the partial payment, but like Jobseekers Benefit, is a temporary payment with a maximum of 234 days and is based upon previous PSRI contributions.
For education and employment schemes such as the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme, and the Community Employment Scheme which require applicants to have spent a certain amount of time on a welfare payment, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will count towards that amount of time, but applicants will have to transfer to a payment other than PUP before qualifying.
It is important to remember that anyone who is considering leaving PUP now, will not be able to return to it, so should be cautious when giving up the payment.