Thursday, 16 December 2021
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Social Welfare Benefits
453. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the proposals there are to improve the criteria for the free fuel allowance in which a family member may return to live with a parent who normally resides on their own and is in receipt of the free fuel allowance on a temporary basis due to housing or domestic difficulties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [62874/21]
The Fuel Allowance is a payment of €33.00 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €924 each year) from October to April, to 371,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €323 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.
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 qualify for the fuel allowance payment a person must satisfy all the qualifying criteria including the household composition criteria. This ensures that the fuel allowance payment goes to those who are more vulnerable to fuel poverty including those reliant on social protection payments for longer periods and who are unlikely to have additional resources of their own.
To satisfy the household composition criteria an applicant may live alone or only with:
- a qualified spouse / civil partner / cohabitant or qualified child(ren); (if the qualified spouse is in receipt of half rate carers, in addition to the IQA payment, they may qualify for fuel allowance, subject to a means test) or
- a person in receipt of a qualifying payment who would be entitled to the allowance in their own right or
- a person who is in receipt of carer’s allowance or carer’s benefit in respect of providing full-time care and attention to the fuel allowance applicant or their qualified spouse / civil partner / cohabitant or qualified child(ren) or
- a person receiving pandemic unemployment payment (PUP), a person receiving short-term jobseeker's allowance (JA) or basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) - i.e., less than 391 days for JA and less than 15 months/456 days for SWA).
Fuel allowance is not payable if an applicant lives with any person, including a family member that is not covered by the criteria outlined.
Any decision to extend the qualifying criteria for fuel allowance in the manner outlined by the Deputy would change the targeted nature of the scheme and could only be considered while taking account of the overall budgetary context and the availability of financial resources.
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.