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Fuel Poverty

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 24 March 2021

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Questions (965)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

965. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to put in place a comprehensive anti-fuel poverty strategy; the timeframe for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14216/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Government’s Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty was published by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications in 2016.  The Strategy set out a number of actions to alleviate the burden of energy poverty on the most vulnerable in society.  The focus of the strategy was on high impact actions which aimed to make a real difference to the lives of those in energy poverty. The strategy to combat Fuel Poverty / Energy Poverty is under the remit of the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications and questions in relation to the strategy should be directed to that Department.

With regard to income supports my Department provides a range of schemes to assist with energy costs.

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

An Electricity or Gas allowance is available under the Household Benefits scheme (at an estimated cost in 2021 of €195 million).

Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) scheme, the Department operates a number of schemes to help people with the cost of heating their homes.  These include -

- A Heating Supplement may be paid to assist people in certain circumstances that have special heating needs.  If a recipient of a social protection or HSE payment has exceptional heating costs due to ill health, infirmity or a medical condition which s/he is unable to meet out of household income, that person may apply for a Heating Supplement.

- The Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off and unforeseen expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. 

- A Fuel Supplement may be paid in lieu of the National Fuel Scheme in cases where people have entitlement but are not receiving payment from any other source.  This is most commonly used where a person has been in receipt of a qualifying long term Department of Social Protection payment moves temporarily to a non-qualifying short term payment (for example, moving temporarily from long term Jobseekers Allowance to Illness Benefit or Basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance (sick no benefit).  

As committed to in the Programme for Government 2020, the ESRI carried out a study into how best to minimise fuel poverty in the context of Carbon Tax commitments.  The ESRI identified three key payments by the Department of Social Protection to which carbon tax revenues should be channeled.  These are the Qualified Child payment, the Living Alone Allowance and the Fuel Allowance.  Accordingly, based on this research, the Government increased these 3 payments with effect from January 2021.  The weekly Fuel Allowance payment has been increased by €3.50 per week to €28 for a period of 28 weeks. The Qualified Child payments have been increased by €2 per week, from €36 to €38 per week, for children under 12 years of age and by €5 per week, from €40 to €45 per week, for children aged 12 and over.  It is estimated that this will benefit 419,000 children who are most in need.  The Living Alone Allowance was also increased by €5 from €14 to €19.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 966 answered with Question No. 962.
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