Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (355)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

355. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the list of payments that qualify for fuel allowance (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2836/21]

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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.

The criteria for fuel allowance are framed in order to direct the limited resources available to my Department in as targeted a manner as possible. Disablement benefit is not a qualifying payment for fuel allowance and therefore, no fuel allowance is payable if a person in a household is in receipt of this payment. Disablement benefit is not a means tested payment and is based on a person’s PRSI record. Disablement benefit can be paid to people in employment and also paid in addition to most other Social Protection payments.

The only exception is where the person on disablement benefit is also in receipt of incapacity supplement, then fuel allowance can be paid subject to satisfying all other qualifying criteria. Incapacity supplement is an increase to disablement benefit where a person is considered to be permanently incapable of work, as a result of an occupational accident or disease and does not qualify for another Social Welfare benefit.

The guidelines for the fuel allowance scheme are kept under review. However, any decision to extend the eligibility criteria to allow a person in receipt of disablement benefit to qualify for the fuel allowance could not be considered in isolation, which in turn would have cost implications, and would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, my Department operates both Exceptional and Urgent Needs for people who have an urgent need, which they cannot meet from their own resources. These payments are available through our Community Welfare Officers.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.