The end of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is an opportunity to bring in social welfare payments that keep people above the poverty line, according to People Before Profit.
On Newstalk Breakfast, party TD Paul Murphy said that the PUP payment demonstrated what was possible in terms of payments for people who suddenly found themselves in financial difficulty.
“For me, what it shows is that, when anybody could face the prospect of becoming unemployed due to no fault of their own, it was possible - and it was possible quite quickly - for a scheme to be put in place that meant people were not getting an income below the poverty line.
"They were getting an income of €350 per week – which is a minimal amount, but it was [an] amount people felt, okay someone could actually survive on that.
“For me, the point is, if we can do that at a time of pandemic, why is it okay outside of pandemic to have people on Disability Allowance, Carers’ Allowance or Jobseekers’ Allowance to be paid substantially less than the poverty line?
“To be on just over €200 per week and expected to struggle on and survive.”
Mr Murphy said social welfare increases could be introduced incrementally, noting that People Before Profit last year called for a €25 increase.
He indicated that this increase would have cost the Exchequer €1.9 billion and stressed that it could have been paid for through a two per cent increase to employers’ PRSI.
Mr Murphy emphasised that a two per cent increase to employers’ PRSI would still leave it at about 60 per cent of the EU average.
“That gives you a glimpse of the outstanding wealth that still exists here, that we as a society should be able to say okay, we just don’t think it is acceptable for people on Disability Allowance or Carers’ Allowance or Jobseekers’ Allowance to be asked to try to survive on less than the poverty line,” he said.
Ireland is the fifth-richest country in the world per capita. I know people don’t experience that
“The point is during the pandemic, anybody could become unemployed and that is why the Government said 'oh let’s re-look at what people need to survive'.
“Ireland is the fifth-richest country in the world per capita. I know people don’t experience that but that is because the wealth is largely hoarded and accumulated at the top.
“If we, instead of running society in the interests of the one per cent of society and ran it in the interests of the majority, it is perfectly possible to have social welfare rates that are above the rate of poverty.”