The new weekly Telephone Support Allowance (TSA) of €2.50 will be paid from June 2018. People in receipt of the Living Alone Allowance and also Fuel Allowance will automatically qualify for the TSA. It is expected that approximately 124,000 customers will qualify for the scheme at a cost of €16.14 million in 2018.
If recipients of either fuel allowance or the living alone allowance were allowed to receive the TSA it would result in an additional 412,518 people qualifying for the payment. This would increase the overall annual cost of the scheme to €69.77 million, an increase of €53.63 million.
The primary objective of the TSA is to allow the most vulnerable people access to personal alarms or phones for security. The allowance will also encourage social contact and assist in the prevention of social isolation for those living alone.
The criteria for the TSA are framed in order to direct the limited resources available to my Department in as targeted a manner as possible. Fuel Allowance is a means tested payment ensuring that the TSA payment goes only to people on low income who live alone.
Accordingly, I have no plans at this time to change the criteria for the TLA as suggested by the Deputy.
Any decision to do so would considerably increase the overall cost of the scheme and would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.