Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
318. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will consider that all persons aged 70 and over qualify for the fuel allowance to reflect the increased cost of living; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49188/21]
The Fuel Allowance is a payment of €28.00 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €784 each year) from October to April, to 370,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €300 million in 2021. 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.
My Department also pays an electricity or gas allowance under the household benefits scheme at an estimated cost of €195 million in 2021. Household benefit applicants aged 70 or over do not have to satisfy the household composition criteria or undergo a means test.
The fuel allowance payment is targeted at those who are more vulnerable to energy poverty, including those reliant on social protection payments for longer periods and who are unlikely to have additional resources of their own. Allowing all persons over 70 years of age in receipt of social protection payments regardless of means or household composition to receive the fuel allowance would also fundamentally change the nature of the scheme and add significantly to its cost.
Any decision to extend the eligibility criteria for fuel allowance in this manner would require considerable extra funding for the fuel allowance schemeand would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.
This year funds raised through the carbon tax will again support targeted social welfare and other initiatives to alleviate fuel poverty and ensure a just transition. In this regard, the Government will continue to consider how it can support people on low incomes and those on social welfare payments.
Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme a special heating supplement may be paid to assist people in certain circumstances. Exceptional needs payments may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which an applicant is unable to meet from his / her own resources.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.