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Refund warning as over a million on State support


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Welfare advice: Liz Canavan, assistant secretary to the Department of An Taoiseach. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Welfare advice: Liz Canavan, assistant secretary to the Department of An Taoiseach. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Welfare advice: Liz Canavan, assistant secretary to the Department of An Taoiseach. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Unemployment benefit claimants face the prospect of big repayments as new figures show that more than a million people now depend on State support.

The number of people on the emergency €350-a-week Covid-19 pandemic payment has shot up by more than 50,000 in the past week.

There are now 584,000 people claiming it, while another 212,000 people are on the standard Live Register. This brings the total number claiming jobless benefits close to 800,000 people.

However, the State is also subsidising the wages of another 281,200 workers who were at risk of lay-off.

This brings the total number who depend on State support to over a million.

The figures were released as lower-paid workers, single parents and carers on the Covid-19 payment were warned they could have to refund overpayments worth about €900.

People on the €350 a week Covid payment who get another welfare payment may have to make refunds as their means will be reassessed.

The value of extra welfare benefits had been based on their income before they lost their job. But if their income was lower than the new Covid payment, this will reduce the amount to which they are entitled.

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on social protection Willie O'Dea said a single parent with two children who earned €200 a week would owe €75 a week, or €900 over 12 weeks.

"People aren't being told about the overpayment issue and could be in for a nasty shock," he said.

"I'm looking for an assurance from the minister that the department won't be insisting on taking a full 15pc of the basic payment that it can under legislation if people go back to work in 12 weeks."

In a Q & A on the Covid-19 payment, the department said workers who already get a social welfare payment - including carers, those with disabilities, lone parents and those in receipt of the working family payment - who were laid off after March 13 should claim the Covid-19 payment.

"Your underlying social welfare payment will be adjusted to take account of the difference between the Covid-19 payment and your normal employment income," it said. "This may take some time - any overpayments or arrears will be adjusted in future payments."

It said overpayments would be deducted on a phased basis from future social welfare payments.

Meanwhile, senior Government official Liz Canavan said there were still a small number of people who had entered incorrect PPS or Iban numbers and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection was contacting these people to get the correct information for payment to be made.

She said the easiest way to make an application was through MyWelfare.ie.

Ms Canavan said there was also an online facility to close a claim. She said the number of employers availing of a temporary wage subsidy scheme in a bid to help retain staff had risen to 46,000.

A cumulative total of €321m in payments have been made under the scheme, which is administered by Revenue.

New payments being made to employers come to €21.3m and this will be in their bank accounts today.

Meanwhile, those with child and adult dependents are advised to claim jobseeker's benefit rather than the Covid payment, as they get additional allowances to bring their payment above €350 a week.

Irish Independent