Diet supplement, administered under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, is payable to qualifying persons, in receipt of the supplement prior to February 2014, who have been prescribed a special diet as a result of a specified medical condition. There are currently 1,700 people in receipt of diet supplement at a cost of €0.9 million in 2020.
A review of the costs of healthy eating and specialised diets by the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute was commissioned by my Department during 2013. The research showed that the average costs across all of the retail outlets of the diets supplemented under the scheme could be met from within one-third of the minimum personal rate of social welfare payment, i.e. the SWA rate, which was then paid at €186 per week (and is currently paid at €201 per week). I am advised that the diet supplement scheme was discontinued for new applicants from 1 February 2014 on the basis of this evidence.
Recipients continue to receive the diet supplement at their existing rate of payment for as long as they continue to have an entitlement to the scheme or until their circumstances change. This measure ensured that nobody was immediately worse off by the closure of the scheme.
In cases of particular hardship, officials continue to have the legislative power to award a SWA payment in cases of exceptional need.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.