The Household Benefits Package is paid to over 452,000 households at an estimated cost of €248 million in 2019. Of this cost, €188 million relates to the electricity or gas allowance element of the Household Benefits Package. The remaining €60 million relates to the Free Television Licence.
As part of Budget 2020, I introduced a change, with effect from 6th January 2020, to the eligibility conditions for receipt of the Household Benefits package. This change will mean that those under age 70 will no longer be disqualified for the Household Benefit package due to the fact that another adult, usually an adult child, is residing in their household. The estimated annual cost of this budget measure, set to benefit around 9,500 people, is €4 million.
In addition, Fuel Allowance is paid to over 368,000 households countrywide to assist with their heating costs over the winter months. The payment is made for 28 weeks, between October and April, at an estimated cost of €240 million in 2019.
As part of Budget 2020, I am pleased to have increased the Fuel Allowance payment rate from €22.50 to €24.50 per week, with effect from January 2020. This represents a 9% increase in the rate of this payment and will raise the annual Fuel Allowance payment from €630 to €686. The annual cost of this increase in Fuel Allowance is €21m.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.