Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Questions (103)

Robert Dowds

Question:

118 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection if the free TV licence scheme will continue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7890/11]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

Under the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014, funding for the TV licence scheme is frozen at 2010 levels of expenditure for the duration of the plan. This decision has no impact on those benefiting from the scheme who will continue to receive a free TV licence. The cost of the free TV licence scheme, administered under the household benefit package, was €59.2 million in 2010 and the provision for 2011 is the same.

The current number of eligible customers for the free TV licence scheme is 396,850.

The household benefits package, which comprises the electricity/gas allowance, telephone allowance and free TV licence, is available to people living permanently in the State who satisfy specific qualifying criteria.

The package is payable to all customers in receipt of carer's allowance and persons aged over 70 years. It is available to customers under the age of 70 in receipt of qualifying payments from this Department or an equivalent payment from a country covered by EU regulation or bilateral social security agreement and who live with certain categories of persons. Customers aged between 66 and 69 years who do not satisfy the criteria may qualify under a means test.

For most people television is an essential support in preventing social isolation; it is the principle medium for information and entertainment. The advantage of the TV licence scheme is that it takes care of a large annual non-discretionary bill for a group who may find it difficult to budget.

Payment for the scheme is made by this Department to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Payments are made on a monthly basis using an agreed formula based on a percentage of the Department's customer base. I have no plans to change the scheme at this time.