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‘Unprecedented demand’ for income support

The level of demand for financial help has seen staff dealing with the equivalent of 10 months of unemployment claims in just 10 days.

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Elizabeth Canavan (Nick Bradshaw/Irish Times/PA)

Elizabeth Canavan (Nick Bradshaw/Irish Times/PA)

Elizabeth Canavan (Nick Bradshaw/Irish Times/PA)

There has been an “unprecedented demand” for income support during the Covid-19 crisis, the Government has said.

The level of demand for financial help has seen staff at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection dealing with the equivalent of 10 months of unemployment claims in just 10 days.

Workers who have lost their job because of the crisis can apply for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment or Jobseeker’s Allowance.

In a Government briefing on Friday morning, Liz Canavan, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Taoiseach, said that claims were paid earlier this week and today.

She added: “We have experienced an unprecedented demand for income supports during the Covid-19, both pandemic unemployment benefits and jobseeker’s payments since March 13.

“The level of demand equates to 10 months’ normal claim load in just 10 days.

“Those claims have been processed as fast as possible and payments for 90% of those claims received by last Thursday or issued last Friday reached bank accounts on Tuesday 24.

“Likewise, nearly all payments received by close of business yesterday, will be putting to payment today.

“We also want to recognise and support the huge number of Irish people who are still working and who are now, for the coming coming weeks, working from home in the interest of reducing the spread of Covid-19.

“For many this will also be a new experience, and it’s important to continue to prioritise your health no matter where you’re working.”

It also emerged that Irish tourists stranded in Peru will return home after diplomatic clearance was given for a repatriation flight in the coming days.

A number of Irish backpackers were unable to leave Peru and appealed to the Government for help.

The Peruvian government has enforced tight travel restrictions in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

On Friday, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “Following a call between the Tanaiste (Simon Coveney) and the Peruvian foreign ministry, diplomatic clearance has been given for a repatriation flight in the next few days.

“Arrangements are still being made for internal transport for citizens in locations such as Cusco to get to Lima.

“Our embassy in Santiago is in contact with our citizens on the ground in Peru keeping them informed.”

The Government announced that bus and train timetables will be cut back to 80% because of social distancing.

Ms Canavan explained: “Public transport is important to ensure that other vital services and workers can get to the place where they’re doing their important job.

“However, we will be making some changes in response to social distancing requirements and the level of service demand.

“Revised timetables for Iarnrod Eireann will come into effect on Monday March 30, while those for Dublin Bus, Go Ahead Ireland and Bus Eireann will come into effect from Wednesday April 1.

“Under the revised timetable services will run at approximately 80% of current levels.

“While passenger numbers on public transport services are down, there are some services that will continue to have heavier loading and this could potentially lead to issues with social distancing requirements.

“With some fleet and driver resources being freed up under the new schedules, additional vehicles will be provided for services where there is greater demand which will address those physical distancing concerns.”

PA