The telephone support allowance (TSA) is a weekly payment of €2.50. The estimated full year cost of the scheme is over €17.5 million. To receive the allowance a customer of my Department must be in receipt of a qualifying payment such as the State pension and also in receipt of the Living Alone Allowance and the Fuel Allowance. The scheme supports recipients by assisting with the cost of communications and/or home security solutions.
The TSA is one of a number of supports that recipients of State pension payments may, subject to satisfying eligibility conditions, have access to. Other supports include the living alone increase (€14 a week), household benefits (€35 a month and the free TV licence element), fuel allowance (€24.50 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €686 for the fuel season) and free travel.
As part of Budget 2021, I was delighted to announce a €5 increase in the weekly rate of the living alone increase and a €3.50 increase to the weekly rate of fuel allowance. The announced increases will take effect from January 2021 and will benefit many older people.
Furthermore, my Department operates both Exceptional and Urgent Needs Payments as part of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme for people of any age, who have an urgent need which they cannot meet from their own resources. These payments are available through our Community Welfare Officers.
During the COVID-19 emergency, the Government has been seeking to implement and operate supports that are targeted where most needed, to ensure continued economic activity and reduce the risk of poverty.
All proposals, including any proposals to introduce a new weekly allowance for older people to help offset the cost of broadband, could only be considered while taking account of overall Government policy and in a budgetary context.
I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.