Thursday, 13 December 2012

Questions (98)

Éamon Ó Cuív


98. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason community employment participants who complete their period on a CE scheme and go on jobseeker's benefit and are in receipt of a reduced payment are not entitled to fuel allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56110/12]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The fuel allowance is a means tested weekly payment of €20 available for people on long-term welfare schemes, including state pension, disability allowance, one-parent family payment and jobseeker’s allowance (after 15 months). The current fuel season commenced in October this year and will finish in on April 2013, a total of 26 weeks.

Jobseeker’s benefit is a short-term payment and is not a qualifying payment for fuel allowance which is means tested and paid to long term welfare recipients. A person will only be paid a fuel allowance while on a community employment (CE) scheme if they were entitled to fuel allowance prior to commencing the CE scheme. A person cannot accrue an entitlement to fuel allowance while on a CE scheme.

When the CE scheme ends the participant is entitled to make an application for a jobseeker’s payment. They may have built up sufficient PRSI contributions to allow them to apply for jobseeker’s benefit. The reason a person may be in receipt of a reduced jobseeker’s benefit is that the rates of payment are graduated according to earnings in the relevant tax year. For example a person with earnings of less than €150 per week would be entitled to a personal rate of €84.50 in 2012. The graduated rates are in place to ensure that disincentives to employment are not created or a situation exists where workers on low incomes would have access to weekly social welfare payments greatly in excess of their income from employment.

If a person is in receipt of a reduced rate jobseeker’s benefit payment and their income is insufficient to meet their needs, they may, subject to a means test, be eligible for a top-up under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. Recipients of jobseeker’s benefit may also opt to claim jobseeker’s allowance.

I have no plans to amend the qualifying criteria for fuel allowance.