A Galway TD has denounced the fact that people over 66 are not included in the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment, saying the Dáil must site to hold the government to account.
Roscommon-Galway TD Denis Naughten has been highly critical of how the government has treated people over the age of 66 in this crisis, accusing unemployment relief measures of “sacrificing” the elderly
“A few short weeks ago during the General Election, Government was telling us that older people would have to work longer in order to get their pension from the State.”
“Yet, in contradiction to that, it is now denying the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment to people over the age of 66 who are working either part-time or full-time.”
The Independent TD described this situations as “totally unacceptable”, and that anyone who has lost their job, regardless of age, should be entitled to this payment.
“These very people were ‘leading by example’ in terms of Government the policy of pushing up the retirement age and they are the very first people to be sacrificed in terms of welfare support,” Denis Naughten said.
Deputy Naughten said that the government has failed to recognise the “severe loss of income” facing many older people, which could cause issues for those who need to make repayments.
He also said that it “undermines” the mantra of the Department of Social Protection that people should work until they’re older.
When questioned about concerns over the exclusion of over-66s from the Unemployment Scheme Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said that employers can still keep them on their books via the wage subsidy scheme.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke Doherty also said that people over 66 could also apply to their local Intreo Office for a supplementary welfare payment.
Speaking ahead of a controversial Dáil last Thursday, Deputy Naughten said that the Dáil needs to continue sitting in order to hold the government to account.
The Dáíl has only sat sparingly since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, most notably to pass emergency legislation with health and economic measures to combat the crisis.
Even then there was a reduced number of TDs in the chamber to comply with social distancing rules.
Last week’s meeting attracted controversy, with Martin Fraser, secretary of the government the most senior civil servant, issuing an admonishment to TDs attending ahead of the meeting.
In a letter passed on to TDs Mr Fraser said that public health advice had been issued for everyone to stay home, and that this advice should be foremost in the minds of Oireachtas officials.
However, Deputy Naughten said that there needs to be a Dáil sitting in order to hold Ministers accountable during this crisis.
“How can the Department credibly defend its policy to push up the retirement age when it is turning its back on those older people who have been contributing to the economy until this crisis?”
“People who, as a result, believed the Department of Social Protection would support that decision in their hour of need.”