Pandemic Payment Must Continue for Students

Government must maintain the PUP payment for students as they return to college.

Students must not be stripped of their pandemic payment. If they are not back in work or their jobs are not returning, then they cannot have support taken away simply because they are enrolled in college.

I raised this issue with the Minister for Social Protection earlier this month and the answer I have received shirks all responsibility and offers no assurances that the payments will continue.

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) was given to students back in March if they lost their job, like many people, due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Like many others, they needed that support. The government must not abandon those same students now.

It would be callous to take away that life-line when students are still being asked to pay extortionate rent and the highest fees in the EU.

Unfortunately, we are not out of the woods yet from a health or economic perspective. Many public health restrictions are being re-introduced or still remain in place.

Sinn Féin’s survey, ‘Telling the Real Story,’ found that 70% of students said their personal employment opportunities or income have been impacted by Covid-19 and 56% of students said their household income had reduced.

Last month youth unemployment stood at 17.5 percent. This figure does not count students in full time education. But it indicates the difficulty of finding work many people are facing.

Many students typically work in the hospitality and service sectors which have been particularly hard hit by restrictions.

The Minister for Social Protection needs to come out and clarify the issue as a matter of urgency.

Note – Parliamentary Question

54. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Social Protection if the pandemic unemployment payment will continue for third-level students after they enrol for college and university in view of the fact they will still have lost their jobs due to the pandemic; if so, if this will affect a grant they may be receiving; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22607/20]


As announced under the July Stimulus, the COVID-19 pandemic unemployment payment has been extended until the end of March 2021. I have recently secured agreement of Government to keep the payment open to new applications until the end of 2020. To be eligible for the pandemic unemployment payment a person must have become fully unemployed due to the downturn in economic activity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and he or she is not being paid by their employer. A self-employed person must have suffered a reduction in their income to the extent they are available to take up other full time work if it was available. Any person in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment, including a student, must continue to satisfy the conditionality of the scheme. The Back to Education Allowance has recently been extended as part of the July Stimulus in response to Covid-19. Ordinarily a person must be in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment for at least nine months before being eligible to apply for the scheme when pursuing a third level qualification. This nine month condition is now being waived for recipients of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment seeking to return to education. A person in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment is required to apply for a jobseeker payment to access the Back to Education Allowance. The Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) Grant, payable by the Department of Education and Skills, represents the primary support for people pursuing third level education and its administration is a matter for that Department. I trust this clarifies the position at this time.