Roscommon-Galway TD Claire Kerrane has criticised the government’s decision to change social welfare guidelines on the gov.ie website yesterday, following comments made by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on Sunday.
An Tánaiste said on Sunday that to receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, people had to be “genuinely seeking work”. This was not listed on the website last week and is currently not a formal requirement.
But a bill that is due to pass through the Dáil this evening will make this formal, stating that people in receipt of the payment must be “genuinely seeking” employment.
Deputy Kerrane, who is Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Social Protection, said that the eligibility criteria were edited to alter guidelines on whether recipients can holiday abroad.
She said that she was “shocked” by reports that the criteria for pandemic unemployment income appear to have been edited yesterday, to retroactively corroborate the Tánaiste’s comments.
“It is genuinely shocking that a Government department would behave in such a fundamentally disingenuous way,” said Deputy Kerrane.
“It is totally inappropriate for a Department to attempt to gaslight the public in order to reflect the Tánaiste’s version of events.
“It is insulting to recipients of the welfare payments, many of whom have lost their jobs in extremely difficult circumstances and are trying their best to follow these guidelines in good faith.”
She added that editing guidelines in an attempt to give credibility to comments made by the Tánaiste is “inexcusable” and “undermines people’s ability to trust the department”.
“The Department of Social Protection needs to urgently explain what has happened.”