ALMOST 20,000 full-time students who were on the pandemic unemployment payment have returned to college.
he Department of Social Protection said in a statement that students who had advised it that they are or will be students this academic year received their final payment last week.
The number of people claiming PUP has fallen by 25,526 since last week.
There are now 114,600 people recipients.
Another 179,761 people are on the Live Register, according to the latest figures.
Overall, the number of PUP recipients has fallen almost 500,000 since peak levels of over 600,000 in May last year.
The greatest drop in recipients this week was in the accommodation and food services sector.
“Throughout the summer months, we have seen a continuous steady decrease in the number of people relying on the pandemic unemployment payment,” said Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys.
“The economy is now substantially reopened and it is really encouraging to see businesses actively advertising for and hiring new staff. Through the Government’s Pathways to Work strategy we want to support people through training, further education and reskilling opportunities to give them the tools and most importantly the confidence to get back to work.”
She said the PUP has proven to be one of the most important supports in our country’s history.
“In fact, since the introduction of the PUP in March 2020, almost one million people have been supported under the scheme at one stage or another,” she said.
““The PUP was always a temporary emergency support and as the emergency phase of the pandemic has now passed, it is the right time to start the process of winding the payment down.”
She said the tapering of the PUP is happening in a gradual manner between now and next February.
Ms Humphreys encouraged those working in the music and entertainment industry to use a music and entertainment assistance scheme, which is open for applications.
The maximum PUP rate is now €300 a week. The other rates are €250 and €203, depending on previous earnings.
“Now that full time students are no longer eligible, the number of workers under 25 claiming PUP has almost halved on last week,” said Laura Bambrick, social policy officer at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
“They are now the lowest age cohort claiming PUP. There are almost twice as many over 55s as under 25s now claiming the payment.
“While rightly there was a lot of concern at the height of the pandemic about youth unemployment, the real challenge now is going to be upskilling and reskilling middle aged and older workers.”
She said a lot more older workers are likely to become unemployed when the wage subsidy scheme is removed. “The profile of people on the wage subsidy is older than those on the PUP,” she added.