The fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week for 27 weeks (a total of €607.50 each year) from October to April, to over 368,000 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.
My Department also pays an electricity or gas allowance under the house hold benefits scheme at an estimated cost of €182 million in 2018.
Any decision to increase the fuel allowance payment would have budgetary consequences and would have to be considered in the context of budget 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 costs.
In 2016 the Government launched a comprehensive Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty following extensive public consultation. This Strategy is spearheaded by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. It sets out the Government’s commitment to protecting vulnerable households from energy poverty through a combination of supports, investment in schemes to improve energy efficiency, and energy efficiency awareness initiatives. One of the best ways to tackle fuel poverty in the long term is to improve the energy efficiency of the dwelling through proper building and household insulation. The Warmer Homes Scheme, administered by Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland, is designed to do that.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.