Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Questions (745)

James Lawless

Question:

745. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to introduce a free television licence or reduction in the licence fee for legally blind persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29305/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The free television licence is received as part of the household benefits package (HHB) which also comprises the electricity or gas allowance.  The package is generally available to people living in the State, aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of a social welfare type payment or who satisfy a means test.  The package is also available to carers and people with disabilities under the age of 66 who are in receipt of certain welfare type payments.  Widows and widowers aged from 60 to 65 whose late spouses had been in receipt of the household benefits package retain that entitlement.  My Department will spend approximately €248 million this year on the household benefits package for over 446,000 customers.

Disability related payments that are qualifying payments for HHB include:

- Invalidity Pension

- Disability Allowance

- Blind Person's Pension

- Incapacity Supplement or Workmen's Compensation, with Disablement Pension, for at least 12 months

- a Social Security Invalidity Pension/Benefit (from a foreign Social Security Agency) or equivalent payment for at least 12 months, from a country covered by EC Regulations, or from a country with which Ireland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement

- Disability Living Allowance with Severe Disablement Allowance (from the United Kingdom) for at least 12 months.

My Department pays a bulk payment to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment for the free television licence element of the HHB package.  Customers entitled to this element of the HHB package do not receive a cash payment.

Any decision to expand entitlement for receipt of HHB to include people with disabilities who are not in receipt of a qualifying payment from my Department or to introduce a scheme that will provide payment to persons with a disability to pay their TV licence would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.