A FLAC client has been awarded a five-month back-payment of the Covid Pandemic Unemployment Payment (the “Covid PUP”) following representations to the Department of Social Protection on her behalf. FLAC’s client, who is resident in a direct provision centre, was temporarily laid-off in March on foot of restrictions introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. She immediately applied for the payment but her applications were refused on the basis that she was in receipt of the Daily Expenses paid to residents of Direct Provision accommodation at a rate of €38.80 per week. She eventually began to receive the payment to which she was entitled in August 2020 following a subsequent application, but suffered considerable financial hardship during the intervening 5 month period. She raised these concerns to the Crosscare Migrant Project who supported her and brought her case to the attention of FLAC.
In announcing that employees resident in Direct Provision Centres would be able to access the Covid PUP in August 2020, the Minister for Social Protection stated that the ‘payment will be paid with effect from when they were temporarily laid-off’. This did not happen in the case of FLAC’s client who specified in each of her applications for the Covid PUP that she had been laid off since March. It was only after instructing FLAC to make representations on her behalf that she received her back-payment.
This case raises concerns that there may be many employees who are resident in Direct Provision centres who may not be aware that they are owed Covid PUP back-payments, or who may be having difficulty accessing their PUP back-payments. FLAC understands that the Department is undertaking a review of claims for the Covid PUP with a view to establishing how many claimants may be owed arrears of the payment. Any such review should include a calculation of the arrears owed to claimants of the payment who are resident in Direct Provision, however it remains unclear if this is the case.
In the meantime, it is open to claimants of the Covid PUP in Direct Provision to contact the Department seeking arrears of the payment for the period between the time they were laid off and when their claims were awarded.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, FLAC has raised numerous concerns in relation to access to social welfare payments. Most recently, in a written submission and appearance before the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response and in a written submission to the Oireachtas Social Protection Committee. Those submissions specifically highlighted FLAC’s concern at the statutory requirement to “genuinely seek work” while in receipt of the Covid PUP and the absence of any regulations defining what this criteria means for recipients of the payment who may be temporarily laid-off. FLAC has also recently sought to highlight its concerns at the provisions of section of the Finance Bill 2020 which proposes to retrospectively impose a tax liability on claims for the PUP. Read our press statement here.
Social Welfare cases make a significant proportion of the cases FLAC takes. FLAC is currently representing a number of client’s in relation to their entitlement to the Covid PUP and in relation to the new “Holiday Rules” introduced by the Department in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.