The self-employed should be just as entitled to welfare assistance as employees who lose their jobs or those on the dole as they require assistance through the bad times just the same as anybody else.
The case is now being lobbied by labour General Election candidate for Mayo, Dr Jerry Cowley, who is also highlighting the fact that self-employed people are highly deserving of support in times of need, considering how hard they work to maintain their businesses and generate employment.
“Self-employed people are not automatically entitled to social welfare assistance once their businesses fail, but I am now calling on the Social Protection Minister Eamon Ó Cuív to change this unjust system. The Department of Social Protection should be renamed the Department of Social Exclusion because they are not looking after all our citizens in their time of need,” said Dr Cowley.
He added that the issue comes up again and again on canvassing visits to Westport, Castlebar, Claremorris, and Ballinrobe.
“This issue has come up time and time again. Here we have many self-employed people, who gave much needed employment in small and medium sized enterprises during the good years of the Celtic Tiger, who now find that they are not automatically entitled to social welfare assistance if they become unemployed as a result of their business failing through no fault of their own.
“It’s completely illogical that a hardworking entrepreneur, who has had to suffer witnessing his or her company collapse due to the mismanagement of the economy by this Government, cannot get assistance when they need it most,” he said. “The same employees of a failed business can get social welfare assistance when they are out of work, so why not the person who contributed so much in taxes and revenue in the first place?”
The standard response from the Department of Social Protection on the matter has always been that a self-employed’s PRSI class S contributions do not entitle him to claim Social Welfare, as class S is not recognised for eligibility.
“How can this Government expect unemployed people who were previously self-employed to support themselves without help? To expect them to survive financially is beyond all reason and is an inhumane response to the economic crisis they find themselves in.
“Indeed, the difference in contributions is three per cent between employees (PAYE ) and the (SE ) self-employed contribution, so why can't the self-employed pay an amount that is relative, or required, so that all unemployed persons can apply for assistance? Surely that is the logical solution to this growing problem being faced by the self-employed,” added Dr Cowley.