Wednesday, 29 July 2020
Social Welfare (Covid-19) (Amendment) Bill 2020: Second Stage
I welcome the Minister. I have three more questions that I hope will be answered. On people who need to undertake essential travel to countries that are not on the green list, such as the UK, I have had a number of representations in the past couple of days from very concerned women who need to travel to countries that are not on the green list for a termination of pregnancy that is not allowed in this country. They are worried about how they have to report this, how they can protect their privacy and what they need to do to prove that they are leaving the country for essential travel. Have women like this been taken into account in respect of the fact that they will have to travel to the UK or the Netherlands? I am not sure if the Netherlands is on the green list but the UK certainly is not. I want clarification on how we can address this sensitively for women who are looking to travel and are quite concerned about how it will happen and if their payments are going to be affected.
One of the amendments that was ruled out of order relates, again, to women. It concerns the working family payment. Currently women are returning to work whether that be in restaurants, pubs or other low-pay employment with low hours. I received a representation from a woman working in a pub where the pub is picking names out of a hat as to who will get shifts. One woman could have five hours in one week, 20 in the next and none in the next. It is being done very unfairly. She is living in fear that her working family payment is going to be massively impacted because she is not going to be able to reach the 39 hours. How are we going to address those women who are returning to work but are not receiving the hours they would have before Covid? Will any sort of allowance be made for a special Covid approach to the working family payment?
On artists, many actors and actresses have not been able to access any sort of payment during the lockdown and Covid. I have three letters of refusal in my office because the people were not working at the time the Covid payment became available. However, the only reason they were not working at the time was that they could receive between five and nine P45s in one year due to changing their contracts and working for different production companies at different times. It means all their work for the year has been cancelled but because they might not have been on set at a particular time, they have been completely refused payment and have been living without any sort of social welfare supports for the past three to four months. Maybe I can deal with the Minister directly in respect of sending on some of that information.