Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Free Electricity Allowance.

25.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will extend the old age pensioner's free electricity allowanceper capita to old folks homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The free electricity allowance scheme was designed as a measure of assistance for old age type pensioners living alone or with certain excepted categories of persons to enable them to remain in their homes as active members of the community. Where, however, persons residing in homes are in receipt of a qualifying pension or allowance and have their own separate apartments each with its own meter on the domestic two-part tariff, they may qualify for the allowance.

In the circumstances I do not propose to make a change in the scheme along the lines proposed.

Is the Minister of State aware that in many cases where old age pensioners have their own meters and are living in their own compartment within a larger house they are deemed ineligible because of some legal contract they have entered into in the case of a will or assignment with their son, daughter, nephew or niece where that son or daughter is responsible for their welfare until their death? The Minister is not coming altogether clean in stating that where they have separate meters they are automatically eligible. That is not so. In many cases that is not sufficient on its own, and the Minister knows that well.

My reply was that where they are living alone in separate apartments each with its own meter on the domestic two-part tariff they may qualify for the allowance. The only answer I can give to the Deputy is that if he has a case or two he should bring them to my notice.

I tell the Minister——

Do not tell him anything, Deputy. Ask him.

I ask him if he is aware that in many cases old people did provide separate apartments for themselves and separate meters and they hoped to be able to qualify. Then because of a will or assignment they had entered into prior to this they found themselves to be deemed ineligible because of the responsibility resting on their relatives to look after them and the Minister and the Department got out of the payment on this score alone. Do not give the impression——

A question, please. This is not a debate.

I am aware that in many places where the mother leaves the house she builds on an attachment to the house, a room, perhaps something like a kitchenette, and she gets her own meter. In that case, provided she is the registered consumer of the electricity, and provided that the meter in the family home is in the name of the son, then, in my opinion, that person qualifies. I have said, and I repeat, that I do not want to go into individual cases. If the Deputy has a particular case he should bring it to the my notice and I will investigate it.

Is the Minister aware that where the old age pensioner has by deed or assignment handed over the property to a son or daughter and where a separate meter has been installed for that old age pensioner, that in itself does not qualify that old age pensioner for free electricity allowance because of a will or assignment which makes the son or daughter responsible for the welfare of that person?

If the Deputy brings the case to my notice I will have it investigated.