Thursday, 19 March 2020
An Bille Sláinte (Caomhnú agus Cosaint agus Bearta Éigeandála Eile Ar Mhaithe Le Leas an Phobail), 2020: Céim an Choiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha - Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
I note the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection made reference to the top-up or solidarity payments at one of her press briefings today. She said that Government is looking into it and she hoped to have some clarity on the matter today or tomorrow. I am not sure what is being considered, but it certainly needs to be considered immediately because it has knock-on consequences for people and their applications in terms of means testing if that is to be taken into consideration - these solidarity payments or top-up payments. We need clarification on that immediately.
Obviously, many people are self-isolating. They do not want to go out and cannot go to their Intreo offices. Many people do not have the means to print out forms to complete and send off. In the past few days I - and I am sure many other Deputies - have sent out hundreds of application forms to people seeking to access the new Covid-19 unemployment payment. People are being urged to make an application online, which is the logical thing to do. However, there is a serious problem. In order to make an application online a person needs to have a public services card. Many people do not have a public services card. To obtain a public services card a person needs to go into the Intreo office. First, this puts more pressure on Intreo. Second, considering the need for the social distancing and isolation, it puts people at risk. It would be logical for Government to scrap the requirement to have a public services card to make an online application. Previously the Minister said there would be an online application process for the new illness benefit. If there is also a need to have a public services card for that, it needs to be scrapped.