Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Bell

Question:

463 Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the number of weeks the fuel allowance is paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7589/01]

The aim of the national fuel scheme is to assist householders who are on long-term social welfare or health board payments and who are unable to provide for their own heating needs. A payment of £5 per week is paid to eligible households and £8 per week is paid in smokeless zones as and when these zones are introduced.

The duration of the scheme was 26 weeks until, as announced in this year's budget, I extended the fuel season to 29 weeks. The current fuel season will be extended by two weeks in April 2001 and the start of the next fuel season will be brought forward by one week to the beginning of October 2001.