Yesterday in the Dáil, the Tánaiste stated in response to me that the establishment of a discretionary fund to assist households with rising utility bills and, in some cases, debt was a very good idea and would be looked at prior to the upcoming budget. I welcome that. This is a proposal that we introduced in a motion in the Dáil last February on increasing energy costs, the impact of the carbon tax increases and the need for the Government to act.
Now, seven months later, the situation is even worse. Energy prices are soaring, further carbon tax increases are on the way and households are struggling. Families are rationing fuel and they are making choices between putting food on the table and turning on the heating. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, in a major survey earlier this year, found that nearly 20% of working people are cutting back on fuel and electricity due to costs. Increasing the fuel allowance for existing recipients in the upcoming budget is not enough. We need to look at eligibility and we need to establish a fund to ensure that workers and families outside of the fuel allowance can seek assistance. As the Minister who will be overseeing spending in the upcoming budget, I ask the Minister whether he will commit to this.