Thursday, 7 November 2019
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Fuel Allowance Eligibility
207. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason persons who go on a community employment scheme directly from being on jobseeker's benefit are not awarded the fuel allowance during their second year on the scheme in view of the fact that such persons, if they had remained on jobseeker's benefit and progressed to jobseeker's allowance, would receive the fuel allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45907/19]
The fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €630 each year) from October to April, to over 372,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €240 million in 2019. The purpose of this payment is to assist these households with their energy costs. The allowance represents a contribution towards the energy costs of a household. It is not intended to meet those costs in full. Only one allowance is paid per household.
The criteria for Fuel Allowance are framed in order to direct the limited resources available to my Department in as targeted a manner as possible. To receive the fuel allowance payment a person must be in receipt of a qualifying long term payment from my Department and also satisfy a means test.
Jobseekers benefit is a short-term non means tested payment. A community employment scheme (CE) is designed to get people back to work by offering part-time and temporary placements in jobs based within local communities and is again not considered a long term payment. Participants on a CE scheme can take up other part-time work during their placement without it affecting the payment rate they receive for participating on the CE scheme. Therefore neither Jobseekers benefit nor CE schemes are qualifying payments for receipt of fuel allowance.
Participants on Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection Employment Support Schemes (ESS) such as a CE scheme can be paid fuel allowance where they satisfied conditions for fuel allowance prior to commencing the scheme and where they continue to satisfy the conditions. If the ESS participant was in receipt of a long term qualifying payment prior to going onto the ESS this will allow them to satisfy the qualifying payment element. However, they must also satisfy all other qualifying conditions to qualify for the payment.
Any decision to amend the criteria for receiving fuel allowance to allow a CE scheme to be a qualifying payment would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.
Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, exceptional needs payments may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which customers are unable to meet out of their own resources and this may include exceptional heating cost.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.