Written answers

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Social Welfare Payments

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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269. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of applicants for the fuel allowance in the year 2022 to 2023; and the number approved and disallowed per county, in tabular form. [2660/23]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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The Fuel Allowance scheme is a means tested payment to assist pensioners and other long-term social welfare dependent householders with their winter heating costs. The payment is a contribution towards heating costs; it is not intended to meet these costs in full. The payment is made over the winter season at the weekly rate of €33.00 or, if preferred, by way of two lump sum payments. Only one Fuel Allowance is payable per household. Those who qualify for the payment do not need to reapply annually.

The Department generally collates data on an annual basis. As of the end of December 2021, the Fuel Allowance scheme supported approximately 375,000 households. By the end of 2022, the number of households supported had increased to almost 394,000. It should be noted that the number of recipients fluctuates as people join and exit the scheme as their circumstances change.

The Fuel Allowance is paid, in conjunction with primary social welfare schemes, across a number of IT systems with differing functionality for recording processing activity, and consequently precise information on approved and disallowed applications is not available. As the Department upgrades these systems, it is expected that this data will become available in the future.

Following the largest ever expansion of the scheme, announced as part of the Social Protection Budget 2023 Package, it is estimated that up to 81,000 additional households will qualify for the scheme. As a result of the new measures introduced, effective from January 2023, particularly for those aged 70 and over, my Department has seen an increase in applications for the Fuel Allowance. My officials have put additional measures in place so that Fuel Allowance applications will be processed as efficiently as possible. Additional resources have been assigned to process the increased number of applications and a telephone service is also in place to support customers. There is a more streamlined process in place for applicants aged 70 and over. A new online Fuel Allowance application service was made available from 5 December 2022, which makes it easier and quicker for customers to apply for the payment at a time and place that suits them. A short over 70s paper application form is also available to download from the Government website, gov.ie or by contacting the Sligo Fuel Allowance phone service.

Where an application for fuel allowance is awarded, it will be back-dated as appropriate and there will be no loss in payment to the qualified households concerned.

Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme, discretionary payments can be made to help people with the cost of heating their homes. A Heating Supplement may be paid to assist people with exceptional heating costs due to ill health or infirmity who cannot meet those costs. My Department also provides discretionary Additional Needs Payments to people who face difficulties in meeting their fuel bills.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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270. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will facilitate persons living on offshore islands to remotely sign on for jobseeker's payments. [2686/23]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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Jobseekers Allowance and/or Benefit applications can be taken online via MyWelfare. When a decision has been made for the customer, he/she can manage their claim online; some of the services include:

- Declare their availability for work

- Apply for Holiday

- Change an Address

- Close Claim

MyWelfare is the online home of welfare services. MyWelfare is safe, secure, and accessible anytime, anywhere, and on all devices.

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