Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Questions (519)

John Brady


519. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the British winter fuel payment paid to persons living here will continue as normal post 31 October 2019 in the case of a no-deal Brexit; the plans in place in this scenario; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38477/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

My key area of concern is the impact of Brexit on those current reciprocal arrangements for social insurance (which includes pensions) and social assistance (means tested schemes linked to residency rights) and child benefit between Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland

I understand that the UK’s Winter Fuel Payment (WFP) is an annual tax-free payment made to eligible people to help towards their winter heating costs. It is a lump sum payment between £100stg and £300stg and in most cases it is paid automatically between November and December, to qualified persons. I also understand that as of winter 2012/13, people who live in the EEA or Switzerland who have “a genuine and sufficient link” to the UK are potentially eligible to receive the WFP, regardless of whether they previously had entitlement to it whilst living in the UK. This change occurred, following the 2011 European Court of Justice ruling (the ‘Stewart Case’). Prior to that, only people who had an entitlement to WFP before moving from the United Kingdom were eligible.

Our Fuel Allowance Scheme represents a contribution towards a person's normal heating expenses. It is means tested and is paid only to customers who are getting a qualifying payment, either a State Pension or a means-assessed payment. The rate of fuel allowance is €22.50 per week or €630.00 annually. Currently the fuel season is 28 weeks, and the allowance can be paid weekly or in two lump sums of €315 each, being at the start of the fuel season in October and at the midway point in January.

Post-Brexit, including in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Irish and British citizens will continue to enjoy the right to travel, live and work between the UK and Ireland in the same manner as before. This is because of a long-standing arrangement known as the Common Travel Area (CTA). The CTA pre-dates Irish and UK membership of the EU and is not dependent on it. Both the Government of Ireland and the Government of the United Kingdom are committed to maintaining the CTA in all circumstances and we signed a Memorandum of Understanding to that effect on the 8 May 2019.

As part of that commitment, the Government entered into a Convention on Social Security with the Government of the United Kingdom signed on the 1st February 2019, which replicates the current arrangements that apply to the coordination of social security benefits between the two jurisdictions. The WFP is not paid on a reciprocal basis and I can confirm that there are no provisions in the Convention which will change the existing practices in relation to these payments.