The 2020 Act is designed to give legislative effect to a range of Social Welfare measures announced in the Budget on 13th October 2020. This includes a provision to repeal the increase in State Pension age. The Programme for Government stated that the planned increase in the State Pension age next year would be deferred, and it would remain at 66, pending the report of the Commission on Pensions.
The Act also provides that where a person in receipt of the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment dies, their surviving spouse, civil partner, or cohabitant, who is in receipt of a benefit in his or her own right (including the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment), can receive the deceased persons’ payment for six weeks after the death.
The 2020 Act provides that for the purposes of the Covid 19 Employment Wage Support Scheme (EWSS), the Revenue Commissioners and the Minister for Social Protection may share information relevant to the effective operation of the scheme. This is to provide the EWSS with a similar provision to that of its predecessors, the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and the Employer Refund Scheme.
The 2020 Act put the Covid-19-Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) on a formal statutory footing. It allowed for the attribution, for a prescribed period, of paid social insurance contributions to employees who have been directly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Section 202 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 allows the Minister to provide for urgent needs payments by way of Supplementary Welfare Allowance, including the amount of any such payment and the conditions under which it is paid. This provision enabled the introduction of the emergency Pandemic Unemployment Payment in response to the extreme increase in unemployment in March 2020.
People in receipt of Supplementary Welfare Allowance do not, in the normal course, qualify for the allocation of either paid or credited social insurance contributions. In order to establish clear grounds for the attribution of paid social insurance contributions, it is necessary that the Pandemic Unemployment Payment is established as an identifiable payment on a statutory footing.
It protected those persons’ entitlement to future payments – both long-term payments (such as pensions) and shorter term payments such as Illness, Maternity and Paternity Benefits which require a contribution record up to the date at which benefit is claimed.
The 2020 Act provided that self-employed persons in receipt of the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) may earn up to €480 over a four week period, on a rolling basis, and continue to maintain their entitlement to PUP. The Minister may prescribe by Regulations the income and expenses that may be assessed to reach the €480 earnings limit.
The 2020 Act confirmed that the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is an unemployment benefit (i.e. based on PRSI) available to self-employed contributors. The 2020 Act identified the new Covid-19 PUP as a social insurance benefit within the social welfare code.
The 2020 Act inserted a new chapter 12B into the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 setting out the operation of the formalised Covid19 PUP scheme. It confirmed the general conditions of eligibility for Covid-19 PUP and the PRSI contribution conditions.
The 2020 Act provided for the duration of the payment to be set by Regulation made by the Minister. The Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, can specify a date after which applications for Covid-PUP will not be accepted as well as a date on which payments will cease to be made.
The 2020 Act confirmed that the weekly rates of Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment would be those set out in Part 6 of Schedule 2 to the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. The Minister may alter these rates of payment by Regulation with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
The Minister may make Regulations to give effect to the provisions of Chapter 12B. Such Regulations require the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The Act also specifies the factors to be considered in the making of any such Regulations.
The 2020 Act amends Schedule 2 to the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 by introducing a new Part 6 to that schedule, specifying the rates of Covid-19 PUP.
The 2020 Act provides, in the exceptional circumstances of Covid-19, that persons, for the period of time in which they are in receipt of a PUP payment, and all employees laid off during the pandemic (i.e. since 13th March 2020), whether they are in receipt of the Covid-PUP, Jobseeker’s payments or employees benefiting from the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (introduced by section 28 of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020) will be entitled, for a prescribed period, to paid social insurance contributions at the PRSI Class they were previously paying (e.g. Class A if employees).
The 2020 Act provides that the 13th March 2020 will be the operative initial date for the attribution of PRSI contributions. The 2020 Act provided that some of the expenditure incurred to date on Pandemic Unemployment Payments (PUP) – which has been paid as SWA Urgent Needs Payments – may be charged to the Social Insurance Fund.
The 2021 Act S. 21 provides for an increase (from €20,000 to €50,000) in the exempted capital value when calculating means for carer’s allowance from 2 June 2022.
The 2021 Act is designed to give legislative effect to a range of Social Welfare measures announced in the Budget on 12 October 2021 including increases in weekly welfare rates of pensions, benefits and allowances and proportionate increases for qualified adult dependants. The 2021 Act S. 19 and Schedule 1 provides for increases in the rates of social insurance payments including a €5 per week increase in the personal rate of benefit. It also provides, where relevant, for a weekly increase for qualified adults and qualified children.
The 2021 Act S. 22 provides for increases for qualified children and living alone allowance for social assistance payments. The 2021 Act S. 23 and Schedule 2 provides for increases in the rates of social assistance payments including a €5 per week increase in the personal rate. It also provides for an increase in relation to qualified adults, where relevant.
The 2021 Act also makes provision to extend the end date of the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme to 31 December 2022. The 2021 Act S. 24 makes provision to extend the end date of the covid credit guarantee scheme to 31 December 2022.
2021 Act Benefit Increases
Section 9 provides for a €5 increase in the weekly rate of parent’s benefit from €245 to €250 from 3 January 2022.
Increase in rates of jobseeker’s benefit relating to certain reckonable weekly earnings, certain weekly income and certain reckonable weekly income and certain periods
Section 10 provides for increases in the graduated rates of jobseeker’s benefit from 30 December 2021.
Section 11 provides for an increase in the qualified adult payment which is payable to claimants of the graduated rates of jobseeker’s benefit from 30 December 2021.