Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle welcomes ‘long-overdue’ Jobseeker’s changes, calls for higher Illness and Carer’s benefits

Pringle welcomes ‘long-overdue’ Jobseeker’s changes, calls for higher Illness and Carer’s benefits

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, has welcomed the introduction of a pay-related Jobseeker’s Benefit, though said Government must address low rates of Illness Benefit and Carer’s Benefit.

Addressing the Dáil on Thursday, Deputy Pringle called the introduction of the pay-related benefit “long overdue” and said: “To my understanding, under the new system, those who lose their jobs will now be entitled to a maximum rate of €450, or 60% of their income, per week.

“This is a necessary increase and will soften the income shock when a person loses their employment. It makes sense that the benefit that people receive corresponds to the income they were receiving to allow them to adjust and continue to make payments until an alternative income is arranged,” he said. However, he noted that to receive the full €450 you must have been earning €750 a week, “which is really something that is not going to impact on very many workers”.

The deputy was speaking on Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2024.

Deputy Pringle said: “However, the fact that the maximum payment for those seeking Illness Benefit is €232 a week is outrageous.

“Over the years I have encountered many constituents who have had to take time off work due to illness and who have struggled to make ends meet, to make mortgage repayments and loan repayments, which were calculated from their income and which are impossible for many to keep up with on less than €250 a week.” That doesn’t include food, energy costs and medical bills, he said.

The deputy said: “I was contacted by one constituent, a single mother who became unwell and who had never heard of Illness Benefit until she was unfit to work. She was paying a mortgage of over €900 a month and expected to pay this, as well as household and medical bills and the cost of looking after her children, while receiving just over €200 a week.”

He said: “Unfortunately, like Illness Benefit, Carer’s Benefit is also set at an extremely low rate,” saying it was, “heartbreaking to see people in this situation, struggling to make ends meet during an already extremely stressful and frightening period of their lives.”

The deputy said the government needs to review PRSI rates.

Deputy Pringle said: “At the moment Irish workers and businesses pay the least into social insurance of any country in the EU, although when USC is counted in for workers that probably bring their rates up. Employer contributions are the fifth-lowest in the EU and employee contributions are the second-lowest.

“The government needs to address this, and they need to ensure that workers are properly protected when they lose their job, become sick or have to care for a loved one.”

He said: “Workers are the backbone of our economy. We should be protecting and supporting them.” He also said that business owners should recognise that, “If their employees benefit from increases in PRSI rates, so will their customers, which will mean that they have more disposable income to spend.”

Deputy Pringle said also said that many small businesses would be more properly considered micro businesses, saying a small business is classified as one with up to 250 employees.

The deputy said: “What most of us talk about in the context of small business is the local shop, restaurant or garage that might have up to 10 employees, which in government speak are micro businesses.”

He concluded: “I think we need to use the right terminology so that the right policies can be directed at the right places. I don’t think the needs of a business employing up to 10 or 15 people are the same as a business employing up to 250 people and we need to tailor our measures to look at that.”