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 over 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.
There are approximately 54,000 recipients of Fuel Allowance who are aged 80 years or over. The cost of providing an additional 2 weeks of Fuel Allowance to this cohort of recipients would be in the region of €3 Million on a once off basis.
The Government will, as it does every year, consider if the 2020/2021 fuel allowance season should be extended beyond 9 April (the end date for the current fuel season) depending on the economic circumstances and prevailing weather conditions.
In Budget 2021, the Government targeted one third of carbon tax revenues to go towards boosting the incomes of the poorest in our society. Based on ESRI research, three key DSP 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.
Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme, Exceptional Needs Payments may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which customers are unable to meet out of their own resources, and this may include exceptional heating costs. Decisions on such payments are made on a case-by-case basis.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.