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Social Welfare Payments

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 26 April 2022

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Questions (1040)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

1040. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection the breakdown of exceptional needs payments under the supplementary welfare allowance paid in each month from October 2021 to March 2022; the total and individual value of each; the number of heating supplements that were paid in that time; the number of heating supplements that were awarded in 2020, 2021 and to date in 2022, respectively; the guidance on the awarding of heating supplements provided to community welfare officers; if updated guidance has issued to social welfare officials in 2022 for this payment; if not, if she plans to provide updated guidance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20239/22]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) scheme, my Department can make a single Exceptional Needs Payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income.  An urgent needs payment (UNP) may be made to persons who may not normally qualify for supplementary welfare allowance but who have an urgent need which they cannot meet from their own resources or where an alternative is not available at that time.  Government has provided €45.75 million for the exceptional and urgent needs schemes in 2022.

The scheme is demand led and payments are made at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance.  

While it is not possible to show the payment value for each individual ENP and UNP paid for the months in question, tables 1 and 2 show the breakdown by category of the number and total expenditure of ENPs and UNPs paid in each of the months for October 2021 to end of March 2022.

A Heating Supplement may be paid to assist people in certain circumstances that have exceptional heating costs over and above the normal due to ill health, infirmity or a medical condition that has been certified by a Registered General Practitioner and are unable to meet those costs out of household income. 

Heating supplements are payable at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme.  All the relevant circumstances of the case are taken into account in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance. 

Guidance is provided to assist staff and does not limit the discretionary powers available to officers administering the scheme to assist an individual or household in any particular hardship situation which may arise. 

I wish to assure the Deputy that the guidance issued to the Community Welfare Service officers on the Heating Supplement scheme is kept under review to ensure that it continues to support those most in need of assistance.  If the Deputy has concerns in respect of a particular case he should bring the details to the attention of the Department. 

Approximately 1,100 people benefited from this supplement in 2020 and approximately 1,000 in 2021.  There are currently 961 claimants in receipt of a heating supplement.  Table 3 shows the total number of heating supplement recipients at the end of each month for October 2021 to March 2022.   

More generally, my Department also provides discretionary Exceptional Needs Payments (ENPs) where appropriate to people who face difficulties in meeting fuel bills.  In 2021, over 2,300 exceptional needs payments totaling almost €750,000 were made to assist with household bills and heating costs.  To the end of March 2022, some 780 exceptional needs payments totaling almost €167,000 were made to assist with household bills and heating costs.  

Anyone who struggles with heating costs is entitled to make an application for a payment under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance schemes.  I would encourage them to contact the Community Welfare Service at their local Intreo Centre.  There is a national Income Support Helpline in place - 0818-800024 - which will direct callers to the appropriate office.  

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.  

Table 1 - The number by category of ENPs and UNPs paid in October/ November/December 2021, and January/February/March 2022.

Category

October 2021

November 2021

December 2021

January 2022

February 2022

March 2022

Bills

124

147

106

125

148

197

Child Related

161

193

129

128

170

172

Clothing

865

975

809

531

630

1,280

Funeral

202

222

137

193

252

238

General

1,213

1,298

1,351

938

1,086

1,510

Housing

2,009

2,117

1,844

1,557

1,834

1,781

Illness

102

115

75

94

104

103

Urgent needs payment  

24

36

38

26

25

45

Total

4,700

5,103

4,489

3,592

4,249

5,326

Table 2 - The total expenditure by category of ENPs and UNPs paid in October/ November/December 2021, and January/February/March 2022.

Note: These figures are taken from the Department's ENP/UNP database and represent a snapshot of ENPs/UNPs as they are approved by an officer rather than when they are paid.  The figures do not capture payments that are cancelled, payments that go out of date or overpayments recouped. 

Category

October 2021

November 2021

December 2021

 January 2022

February 2022

March 2022

Bills

€77,283

€112,727

€64,757

€79,198

€79,721

€99,643

Child Related

€26,622

€31,373

€21,230

€18,670

€26,220

€26,369

Clothing

€104,760

€117,494

€103,877

€62,247

€74,844

€164,728

Funeral

€432,183

€444,204

€312,845

€421,974

€576,924

€571,588

General

€272,448

€290,335

€327,786

€202,818

€224,198

€338,760

Housing

€2,319,620

€2,600,017

€2,387,573

€2,019,290

€2,317,537

€2,386,875

Illness

€13,560

€19,440

€13,883

€14,431

€16,325

€16,759

Urgent Needs Payment  

€11,053

€21,913

€36,016

€9,066

€26,693

€38,115

Total

€3,257,529

€3,637,503

€3,267,967

€2,827,694

€3,342,462

€3,642,837

Table 3 - Total number of heating supplement recipients at the end of each month for October 2021 to March 2022 

Month (end of)

Total Number of Recipients

October 2021

982

November 2021

976

December 2021

977

January 2022

969

February 2022

959

March 2022

961

Note: These figures are taken from the Department's Heating Supplement database and represent a snapshot of Heating Supplements as they are approved by an officer rather than when they are paid.  The figures do not capture payments that are cancelled, payments that go out of date or overpayments recouped. 

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