Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson John Brady believes that people left unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis have many questions that have so far gone unanswered, while Intreo offices across the State are being overrun with queries.
Teachta Brady said:”A briefing by the General Secretary and the Minister for all Employment Affairs and Social Protection spokespersons is needed immediately.
“For nearly a week now I have been trying to get information on many issues in relation to Social Protection measures, unfortunately no information has been forthcoming from the Department or the Minister.
“Thousands of workers have now been made unemployed or have had their hours cut. There are many questions people have and they are going unanswered.
“This is resulting in Intreo offices across the State becoming swamped with people trying to get answers, there are long queues in many Intreo offices across the State.
“This is jeopardising the health of both the people and the staff within the offices.
“We need assurance that additional resources are being put into offices to deal with new applications, it’s not sufficient for staff to be pulled from dealing with other payments, workers need to be seconded from other departments to deal with the increased pressures.
“Everything that can be done to make it easier for people to make an application for a Jobseekers payment or Illness Benefit should be done. This includes the online application process.
“The necessity to have a Public Service Card to make an online application needs to be dropped, a passport or Driving Licence should be sufficient.
“Making people go to the Intreo office to get the PSC so they can make an online application is counterproductive. The online process needs to be ramped up in case of any difficulties with the postal service due to the spread of the virus.
“The new Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is welcome, however there should be provision in this scheme for workers put on to short time working. Clarity is also needed for people in receipt of a number of different Social Welfare in work payments.
“Payments such the Working Family Payment, or people on Community Employment Schemes, will their payment be stopped or cut if their hours are cut as a result of the Coronavirus or they can’t work?
“On Thursday we will be dealing with the legislation the Illness benefit. There needs to be a full briefing and that needs to happen before the legislation on Thursday.”