Seanad debates

Thursday, 22 September 2022

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

 

10:30 am

Photo of Maria ByrneMaria Byrne (Fine Gael)

I wish to draw attention to the fact that 18 September was International Equal Pay Day. I attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage this morning that was also attended by the Minister of State, Deputy Burke. The committee was engaged in pre-legislative scrutiny of a Bill concerning maternity leave and maternity pay for councillors. In the adjoining room, the Joint Committee on Gender Equality was discussing equal pay. There is a lot of discussion of these issues currently and we should have a debate on them in this House. I ask the Leader to organise a debate on equal pay at her earliest convenience because many females feel they are being left behind. There is quite a significant number of females in this Chamber and it would be good to have a discussion on gender equality and equal pay.

I was contacted by a constituent recently who had been away travelling and came back here to work last year. This person was in a job that paid less than €24,000 per year but was offered a place on a master's degree programme in the University of Limerick, UL and so applied for a grant from Student Universal Support Ireland, SUSI. However, because they had been working for the last 12 months, albeit on a low income, they were only entitled to a small grant towards fees but were not entitled to any maintenance grant. We really must look after people who are in low-paid jobs. In budget 2023 we need to look after people like carers and people with disabilities but also people who are engaged in upskilling and retraining. The individual I spoke to wants to upskill and retrain but is facing barriers as a result of having worked. Had they been in receipt of jobseeker's allowance or another social welfare payment, they would have qualified for a SUSI grant. Budget 2023 must provide support to those who want to upskill and retrain, particularly those on lower pay. I hope supports will be put in place for people with disabilities, for carers and for those who want to work but who need to upskill and retrain.

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