09 December 2016

Labour spokesperson on Social Protection, Willie Penrose TD, is calling on the Government to improve the way self-employed people are treated in the social welfare system.

Deputy Penrose said:

“For too long I have been calling for these issues to be addressed, and with signs the economy is continuing to improve, not least with the recent positive Exchequer returns, it is high time that the Minister for Social Protection ensured a level playing field for the self-employed.

“While I welcome improvements outlined in the Social Welfare Bill such as the extension of the invalidity pension, this won’t come into effect for self-employed people until this time next year, with small improvements to PRSI Dental and optical benefits also not due until later in 2017.

“Self-employed people are entitled to have a safety net in place in the social welfare system, for when one falls into personal difficulties, such as illness, or where one loses one’s job unexpectedly.

“Many of these people who are self-employed also provide valuable employment for others.

“Such persons are liable for PRSI payment under the class S rate of 4% which entitles them to access long-term benefits, such as the State pension – contributory – or the widow’s, widower’s or surviving civil partner’s pension – contributory. 

“They do not qualify for jobseeker’s benefit, irrespective of how long they have been making contributions, and these people are compelled to seek recourse to the jobseeker’s allowance which is means tested. 

“For many formerly self-employed, this turns out to be their first encounter with the social welfare system.  It can be an emotive, tortuous and complex process in so far as the assessment must reflect the income that the self-employed person might expect to get from his or her business in the previous 12 months.

“I hope the Minister will apply fairness in trying to achieve a just and equitable resolution for the self-employed in the application of the social welfare system for them.

“Especially in the context of a specific PRSI scheme underpinning the equality objective.  It should recognise their special position as employers as well as employees.  We must confront the issue and address in a positive and constructive way the plight of the self-employed.”



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