I just have to say for the record that, as a woman, it is my prerogative to change my mind frequently, and I certainly do so.
In budget 2020, the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, announced an increase in the carbon tax rate. He has committed that all of the funds raised by increases in the carbon tax will be ring-fenced to protect those most exposed to higher fuel and energy costs, to support a just transition for displaced workers and to invest in new climate action measures. On 9 October 2019, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform published the document, The Carbon Tax Increase - What it will be spent on, which sets out specific details on the allocation of these ring-fenced moneys for next year.
The fuel allowance scheme is a targeted measure to protect those who are most vulnerable from energy poverty. For this reason, the largest single allocation, of almost one quarter of the funds that will be raised next year owing to the increased carbon tax, will be devoted to ensuring that the least well-off in society are protected through increases in the fuel allowance payment and also through energy efficiency upgrades targeted at those in energy poverty. It is estimated that over 370,000 recipients will benefit from the increases and new activities in 2020. My Department also pays an electricity or gas allowance under the household benefits scheme, at an estimated cost of €188 million in 2019. In budget 2020, I extended the household benefits package to people under 70 who have another adult living with them. I also announced a €5 increase in the living alone allowance, which I hope will benefit approximately 216,000 recipients in 2020.
Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, a special heating supplement may be paid to assist people in certain circumstances with special heating needs. An exceptional needs payment may also be made under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. This payment can be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost that customers are unable to meet out of their own resources. This may, and sometimes does, include exceptional heating costs.
My colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, has the role of reducing energy poverty by implementing measures, administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, to improve the energy efficiency of homes.