Thursday, 12 May 2022
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Social Welfare Benefits
276. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if budgetary provision is being made for the social protection need of persons with long-Covid; the way in which her Department is planning for same; if her Department is liaising with other Departments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23996/22]
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 generally not contingent on the nature of the illness or disability but on the extent to which a particular illness or disability impairs or restricts a person’s capacity to work. Budgetary provision is not made in respect of any individual illness or disease.
In March 2020, 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 who are a probable source of infection with Covid-19.
My Department has liaised with the Departments of Health and Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to these emergency provisions, which require a Government Order for continued effect.
The rate of payment of the enhanced Illness Benefit payment in respect of Covid-19 is higher than the normal maximum personal rate of illness benefit, for a limited period. The enhanced rate is €350 per week, with additional payments in respect of dependent adults and children.
Expenditure on this payment amounted to almost €57 million in the period March to December 2020 and to €106 million in 2021. Expenditure in 2022, to end-April, was over €141 million.
The enhanced rate is payable for a maximum of ten weeks for those diagnosed with Covid-19. 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 and who are covered by Pay Related Social Insurance contributions. It is payable for up to two years, depending on satisfying the eligibility conditions.
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 to help meet essential, once-off expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet from their weekly income.
My Department keeps the range of income supports under review in order to make sure they meet their objectives. Any changes to the current system would need to be considered in an overall policy and budgetary context.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.