Wednesday, 29 July 2020
Social Welfare (Covid-19) (Amendment) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
Lynn Ruane (Independent)
I will not add a great deal because Senator Higgins has touched on many of the points I had intended raising, notably the back-to-education issue. It is very welcome that the Department has indicated the pandemic unemployment payment can be part of a social welfare payment that can lead back to education. However, the fear is that we are moving into a space where many of the deadlines have already passed for people who may have decided to review their lives.These people may be rethinking how they work, as they may no longer wish to work in a pub or hairdressers or anywhere they feel their skills cannot be transferred. Due to the pandemic they may be looking to upskill, retrain and move into different sectors or get a primary or master's degree. Unfortunately, for many such people, some deadlines have passed and they will have to put off returning to education until next year.
Is there a category for those people who have been in long-term employment but who ended up on the PUP in order that they are not framed as long-term unemployed, and therefore, pointed to the likes of JobPath, which may prevent them from accessing back-to-education supports next year? Is there a new way we can categorise people who are now unemployed because of the pandemic but who are not naturally in the cohort of long-term unemployed? I wonder how we can capture them so that when the CAO process begins next February, they can be seen as a different category of people.