Friday, 20 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
Simon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
I will certainly be brief. I am learning that the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection has a lot of regulation-making powers. We should replicate this in other Departments. This is, however, the answer to many of the Senators' questions. If there are issues that need to be teased through, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection has regulation-making powers on these payments.
On the specific issue of people who are undocumented, and I have heard this a number of times, as the Minister for Health I want to provide an assurance to those people that the health service will treat them with dignity and with absolute privacy and patient confidentiality, as will their social work system, during this time of emergency. We want people to come forward to be tested. We want to be able to find the virus, isolate the virus and contact people who have been in contact with the virus. We absolutely need people to come forward. The thought that anybody would not come forward who may need medical treatment, and who could help us to slow down the spread, is one on which we need to provide reassurance.
It is fair to say that rent matters will be teased out during this week. We will have legislation before Dáil Éireann, I believe on Thursday 26 March, to deal with those particular protections, and subsequently it will be debated in this House. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, intends to engage with Opposition groupings. I will ensure that Senator Higgins and her group are very much recognised in that regard.
I have a note but in the interests of time I will not read all of it out. I will provide some of the information to the Senators around their queries on the working family payment. The Department official has offered very kindly to have a conversation with the Senators post the conclusion of the Bill. If a person is in receipt of a one-parent family payment, the jobseeker's transitional payment, the carer's allowance or the disability allowance then any application for the pandemic unemployment payment is received and processed as normal in relation to the existing payment. If a person is already in receipt of the working family payment and then puts in an application for the pandemic unemployment payment, it is processed as normal and the person receives the pandemic payment in addition to the existing payment. These customers are considered to meet the eligibility requirements for the working family payment in this situation and their payments are not ceased at this time. These customers should not submit an application for jobseeker's payments as it would cease their in-work support. Obviously, if these customers lose their employment subsequently, and it becomes a more permanent job loss, and if the customer applies and is awarded jobseeker's payment, then the person's working family payment would cease. There is a detailed note that I can provide to Senators.