The Fuel Allowance is a payment of €33.00 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €924 each year) from October to April, to 369,000 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 €195 million in 2021.
The Government values the role of carers very much and it is for this reason that they receive significant income supports from my Department. In addition to Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Benefit, carers receive additional support in the form of Free Travel and Household Benefits (for those who live with the person for whom they care) and the annual Carer's Support Grant in respect of each person for whom they care.
Since 2013, the payment of half-rate Carer’s Allowance does not preclude a person from qualifying for Fuel Allowance. If a person is in receipt of a qualifying non-contributory social welfare payment and a half-rate Carer’s Allowance then they are deemed to have satisfied the means test and Fuel Allowance is payable subject to all remaining criteria being satisfied. If a person is in receipt of a qualifying contributory social welfare payment and a half-rate Carer’s Allowance, then the value of the half-rate Carer’s Allowance will be assessed in the means test for Fuel Allowance.
Following the announced €20 increase in allowable means in Budget 2022, a fuel applicant and members of his/her household may have a combined assessable income of up to €120 a week above the appropriate rate of State Pension Contributory and qualify for a payment. The €120 a week means limit is significantly higher that the weekly fuel allowance rate of €33.
Any decision to award fuel allowance to all persons in receipt of half-rate Carer's Allowance and another Social Welfare payment would change the nature of the scheme, would have significant cost implications, and would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.
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 and travel costs. Decisions on such payments are made on a case-by-case basis.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.