Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
426. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if provisions or supports have been put in place for persons who have contracted Covid-19 and as a result have been unable to work due to prolonged ill health and who require an indefinite period of work leave; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44298/20]
My Department provides a suite of income supports for those who are unable to work due to an illness or disability. It is important to note that entitlement to these supports is not contingent on the nature of the illness/disability but on the extent to which a particular illness or disability impairs or restricts a person’s capacity to work.
In March of this year, under the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 (No. 1) and subsequent regulations, the Government provided for entitlement to illness benefit for persons who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 or are a probable source of infection with Covid-19.
The rate of payment of the enhanced Illness Benefit payment in respect of Covid-19 is higher than the normal maximum personal rate for a limited period. The measures were designed to ensure that where a registered medical practitioner or a HSE medical officer diagnoses a person with Covid-19 or identifies him or her as a probable source of infection of Covid-19, the person can comply with medical advice to isolate, while having their income protected. This is essential to limit and slow down the spread of the virus, to keep the number of people affected to a minimum, and to reduce a peak of cases which would cause extreme pressure on the health system.
The enhanced rate of Illness Benefit was brought in as a short-term public health measure and is not a long-term income support payment. It is payable for 2 weeks where a person is isolating as a probable source of infection of Covid-19 and up to 10 weeks where a person has been diagnosed with Covid-19. The purpose of the enhanced Illness Benefit payment in respect of Covid-19 is to encourage people to not go to work due to financial constraint when they should be in isolation.
In a case where a person continues to be ill beyond 10 weeks, standard Illness Benefit may be paid for an extended period, based on the person’s continued eligibility. Illness Benefit is the primary income support payment for people who are unable to attend work due to illness of any type. Additional payments may also be made in respect of a qualified adult and qualifying children.
Apart from these income supports, my Department also provides means tested supports under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme for people who are ill but who do not qualify for Illness Benefit. The Department may also make an exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet from their weekly income.
I trust that this clarifies the matter.