I propose to take Questions Nos. 1087 to 1089, inclusive, together.
The fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €630 each year) from October to April, to over 372,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €240 million in 2019. The purpose of this payment is to assist these households with their energy costs. The allowance represents a contribution towards the energy costs of a household. It is not intended to meet those costs in full. Only one allowance is paid per household. The allowance is increasing by €2 to €24.50 from January 2020 following changes announced in the budget.
A person in receipt of a Social Security Payment from a country covered by EU Regulations or a country with which Ireland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement (of which there is an Irish equivalent payment) is eligible to apply for the fuel allowance payment on the same basis as Irish State pension recipients. As with all other recipients of the fuel allowance, the person must satisfy a means test as well as all other qualifying conditions. If a person is in receipt of a foreign pension other that a qualifying foreign pension as outlined above, then they will not be entitled to the fuel allowance payment.
The Living Alone Increase is a €9 increase in the weekly rate of payment of certain Irish social protection payments awarded where the recipient is living alone. These payments include State pensions, disability allowance, invalidity pension, incapacity supplement and blind pension. It is not a stand-alone payment. This payment is rising by €5 to €14 from January 2020 following changes announced in the budget.
People in receipt of a State pension or other equivalent payments from a country covered by EU Regulations or a country with which Ireland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement are not currently entitled to receive the Irish living alone increase to that payment, as the respective rates of those payments to people living alone or with other people are set by national legislation in those countries. There are no circumstances where the living alone increase can be paid to people who are not in receipt of a qualifying payment from my Department.
The household benefits package (HHB) comprises the electricity or gas allowance, and the free television licence. My Department will spend approximately €248 million this year on HHB for over 448,000 customers.
The package is generally available to people living in the State aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment or who satisfy a means test. The package is also available to some people under the age of 66 who are in receipt of certain qualifying social welfare payments.
Pensioners aged between 66 and 70, who are in receipt of an equivalent social security pension from a country covered by EU Regulations or from a country with which Ireland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement, are eligible to apply for the HHB package and would be eligible for the scheme, once he or she satisfied the relevant household conditions and the means test.
For the household benefits package, pensioners aged 70 or over who are legally resident in Ireland are entitled to the package without being in receipt of any qualifying social welfare payment. The package is not means-tested; however, as it a household benefit, only one person per household is eligible for the scheme.
I hope this clarifies these matters for the Deputy.