Thursday, 15 October 2020
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
221. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork who is receiving the pandemic unemployment payment no longer qualifies for fuel allowance in view of the fact that the person had been in receipt of fuel allowance in advance of the pandemic unemployment payment award. [30860/20]
The fuel allowance is a payment of €24.50 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €686 each year) from October to April, to an average of 352,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €261.35 million in 2020. 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.
To qualify for the fuel allowance payment a person must satisfy all the qualifying criteria including being in receipt of a qualifying payment. The person concerned had previously been in receipt of long term casual jobseekers allowance which is a qualifying payment for fuel allowance. However, the person concerned is now in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP), which is not a qualifying payment for fuel allowance.
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. Qualifying payments for fuel allowance are those payments that are considered long term payments and an applicant must also satisfy a means test. The PUP was introduced by my Department in March 2020 and is available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost employment due to a downturn in economic activity caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. When introduced the scheme was expected to be a short term measure and applicants do not have to satisfy a means test to qualify for the payment.
Any decision to include the PUP as a qualifying payment for fuel allowance would have budgetary consequences and would have to be considered in the context of budget negotiations taking into consideration the resources available to my Department.
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 costs. Decisions on such payments are made on a case-by-case basis.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.