Household Utility Bills Support: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Claire Kerrane on Wednesday, 3 February 2021:
That Dáil Éireann:
notes that:
— 475,364 people received the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) last week, an increase of 15,443 on the previous week;
— the society of St. Vincent de Paul estimates that energy poverty affects one in six households in Ireland, and is concerned that a significant proportion of households will be in energy debt as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic;
— a person who loses their job cannot access the Fuel Allowance until they are in receipt of a Jobseeker’s payment for more than 390 days (over 15 months);
— the Fuel Allowance is not available to recipients of the PUP;
— the PUP rates have not been adjusted to take into account increased heating costs during winter months and households currently have to make their weekly payments stretch even further to meet these costs; and
— many households on reduced income as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic are ineligible for the Fuel Allowance due to the limited qualifying criteria, which does not consider the financial impact of the pandemic and the urgent support these households need during difficult winter months; and
calls on the Government to:
— suspend the requirement that a person who loses their job must be in receipt of a Jobseeker’s payment for over 15 months before they can qualify for the Fuel Allowance, for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic, and review the qualifying period thereafter;
— extend the Fuel Allowance of €28 per week to PUP recipients;
— establish a discretionary fund for Covid-19 utility debt, of an initial five million euro, to provide assistance to individuals and households struggling with Covid-19 related heating and electricity costs;
— ensure that the budget for the Exceptional Needs Payment is sufficient, as well as ensuring access to and flexibility from Community Welfare Officers; and
— make a double payment of the Fuel Allowance to all existing recipients for two weeks in February.
The following amendment to the motion was agreed on Wednesday, 3 February 2021:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
“notes that:
— the Government is firmly committed to targeting supports to those who need them most and is also committed to combatting fuel poverty by a variety of measures and in supporting those on low incomes with their home heating costs through the Fuel Allowance scheme and other supports;
— the Government is constantly monitoring the supports it provides during this Covid-19 pandemic;
— the budget for the Supplementary Allowance Scheme is not capped and is operated in a discretionary and flexible manner by Community Welfare Officers in the Department of Social Protection;
— the use of targeted schemes such as the Supplementary Welfare Allowance ensures that resources are targeted where they are needed most;
— the Government is providing unprecedented support through the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme to those who have lost employment during the period of the pandemic;
— since last March over 14 million PUPs have been issued, with over 820,000 people receiving support under the scheme and the total cost of PUP to date is about €5.5 billion;
— approximately 443,000 people have benefited from the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme at a total cost of over €4.5 billion; and
— the rates of PUP are more than double the support available to impacted workers in Northern Ireland where payments are about £100 weekly; and
further notes that:
— over 372,000 households will be supported in the 2020/2021 fuel season starting October 2020 and concluding in the week of 9th April, 2021, at a cost of over €300 million;
— an estimated 465,000 households receive electricity or gas allowances through the Household Benefits Package throughout the full year at a cost of €265 million annually;
— the Fuel Allowance was increased by €3.50, from €24.50 per week to €28 per week, with effect from 4th January, 2021, the highest weekly rate ever, and other targeted increases to Qualified Child payments and the Living Alone Allowance also took effect in January;
— the total value of the fuel allowance in Ireland across a full free fuel season is €784 per household, which far exceeds the value of equivalent payments in neighbouring jurisdictions such as Northern Ireland where, for example, the Winter Fuel Payment ranges in value from £100 to £300;
— the fuel allowance season was extended in 2020 by four weeks at a cost of almost €37 million, and the Government will, as it does every year, consider if the 2021 fuel allowance season should be extended beyond 9th April depending on the economic circumstances and prevailing weather conditions;
— in addition to the Fuel Allowance, the Government provides targeted supports to people experiencing exceptional costs or financial difficulties through the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme, and payments can be, and are made, under this scheme in respect of exceptional heating costs;
— the Government is committed to supporting the retrofitting of the housing stock, which is the ultimate solution to fuel poverty;
— this year will see the largest budget for retrofitting in the history of the State, including over €100 million in capital funding to support lower income households to retrofit their homes through the Warmer Homes Scheme, representing a €47 million increase on the 2020 allocation; and
— in addition, funding of €65 million is being made available in 2021 through the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, to support the retrofitting of up to 2,400 social housing homes.”
- (Minister for Social Protection)
Debate resumed on the following question: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."

I must now deal with a postponed division relating to the motion regarding household utility bills support, as amended. On Wednesday, 3 February 2021, on the question, "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to", a division was claimed and that division must be taken now.

Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 83; Níl, 61; Staon, 0.

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Denise Mitchell and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
Question declared carried.