Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (353)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

353. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if she received a request from a charity (details supplied) for a double fuel allowance to be paid for a two-week period over the next few weeks; if the request will receive a response; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2730/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

The Fuel Allowance is a payment of €28.00 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €784 each year) from October to April, to an average of 372,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €300 million in 2021. 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.

My Department also pays an electricity or gas allowance under the Household Benefits scheme at an estimated cost of €265 million in 2021. This is paid at a rate of €35 per month, 12 months of the year.

I can confirm that I have received the letter from the Society of St Vincent de Paul referred to by the Deputy and I am writing back to them in relation to the range of issues raised in the correspondence, including in relation to the fuel allowance.

In Budget 2021, the Government targeted one third of carbon tax revenues to go towards boosting the incomes of poorest in our society. Based on ESRI research, three key social welfare payments were targeted for increases in the budget as a result - the Fuel Allowance, the Qualified Child Allowance and the Living Alone Allowance.

From January 2021, the Fuel Allowance was increased by €3.50 per week to €28 for a period of 28 weeks, while the increase in carbon tax on solid fuels will not take effect until May 2021. This will ensure that recipients will benefit from the increased payment over this winter period.

Financial assistance is available under the Exceptional Needs Payment and the Urgent Needs Payment schemes, on a year round basis, to assist with expenditure which a person could not reasonably meet out of his/her weekly income, which may include exceptional heating costs. Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Following the recent activation of Level 5 measures, as set out in the Government’s Plan for Living with COVID-19, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has put in place a moratorium on all disconnections of domestic customers to take effect from 8 January 2021. This moratorium will remain in place for the duration of the current Level 5 restrictions.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.