The fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week for 27 weeks from October to April, to over 338,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €227 million in 2018. 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.
The Government values the role of carers very much and it is for this reason that they receive significant income supports from the Department. In addition to carer’s allowance 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 respite care grant in respect of each person for whom they care.
If a person is getting certain qualifying social welfare payments and also providing full time care and attention to another person, they can keep their main social welfare payment and get the half-rate carer's allowance as well. They can also receive an extra half-rate carer’s allowance if they care for more than one person. From October 2013 onwards, 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 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 contributory social welfare payment and a half-rate carer’s allowance then they will have to undergo a means test for fuel allowance.
Any decision to amend the criteria for receiving fuel allowance to include carer’s allowance would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.
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 costs.
The best way to tackle fuel poverty in the long term is to improve the energy efficiency of the dwelling. My Department works closely with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to help identify people in energy poverty who are living with chronic respiratory conditions so they can avail of the Warmth and Well-being Scheme which aims to make homes warmer and healthier to live in.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.