Fianna Fáil TD for Carlow, Jennifer Murnane O’Connor, has said there must be an out of hours helpline for the Department of Social Protection given the unprecedented demand on the service at present.
Deputy Murnane O’Connor made the call following an error that occurred recently which resulted in 1,700 people being informed via email that the COVID-19 payment which they had been in receipt of was being stopped.
She explained: "I was contacted by a number of people who had received an email saying that their COVID-19 pandemic payment would be stopped.
"Their confusion and anxiety was palpable. Some were asking me whether it was a fake email, others had no idea why it would be cancelled given they had been temporarily laid off and had received the first couple of payments."
She added: "Unfortunately, despite best efforts, I could not help them get any answers. The COVID-19 Income Support Helpline, which is open from 9am–5pm, Monday to Friday was closed on Good Friday and reopened at 9am Tuesday morning.
"Despite an email explaining the error being issued on Friday night there was a lot of people who endured a sleepless night.
"It’s difficult enough at the moment without emails circulating at night informing people that they will receive no payment the following week.
"Communication is key and while I absolutely accept the huge pressure on Intreo employees and Department staff at the moment and the huge volume of applications they are dealing with, there needs to be a helpline in place to deal with the inevitable queries which follow an email from the Department of Social Protection."
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