Thursday, 17 November 2022
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Social Welfare Benefits
217. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will make provision for those on illness benefit to receive a double week's payment in December 2022, and for them to be included in the cost-of-living measures introduced by the Government to alleviate some of the inflationary pressures [57191/22]
In response to the ongoing cost of living pressures, my Department will spend approximately €1.2 billion in social welfare measures during the coming months to help individuals and families through this difficult period.
One of these measures is the Autumn Cost of Living Double Payment which was paid to those schemes which are eligible to receive the Christmas Bonus.
Illness Benefit is not, and has never been, a qualifying payment for the Christmas Bonus. It is a scheme which, by its nature, is a short-term social welfare scheme. It has a high degree of churn with people coming onto the scheme and moving off every week, often with very short duration claims. For example, between July and September 2022, almost 115,000 Illness Benefit claims were awarded and, of these, only 21,000 remain in payment. This indicates a churn of 82% over just a three-month period. The average duration of a claim for Illness Benefit is only 6 days.
In addition, many Illness Benefit payments are paid directly to the employer. Therefore, a double payment such as the cost of living support would, in many cases, be an employer subsidy as opposed to an additional support to the customer. This is not the intent behind the October cost of living support, and nor would it be a targeted use of resources.
I do appreciate however that individual circumstances can vary from case to case. I have asked my officials to examine this issue in respect of people who are in receipt of Illness Benefit for longer periods of time.