The Telephone Support Allowance (TSA) is a weekly payment of €2.50. Approximately 129,000 customers are in receipt of the TSA payment. The estimated full year cost of the scheme is over €16 million.
The primary objective of the TSA is to allow the most vulnerable people at risk of isolation, including the elderly and those with disabilities, access to personal alarms or phones for security.
The risk of social isolation is clearly higher for those living alone than those who live with other people, especially where they have limited personal resources. Therefore the criteria for the allowance were framed in order to direct the limited resources available to my Department in as targeted a manner as possible. To receive the allowance a customer of my department must be in receipt of a qualifying payment and also in receipt of the Living Alone Allowance and the Fuel Allowance.
People who live alone would be considered among those most at risk of social exclusion, and this payment, along with the Living Alone Allowance, are also in part recognition of the greater challenges facing some of those living alone, in avoiding poverty. The deprivation rate of couples over 65 is less than half that recorded among those over that age who live alone, and while there are people living alone who have significant personal resources, this allowance is only paid to those who satisfy the means test of Fuel Allowance.
While the schemes operated by my Department are constantly reviewed, any decision to extend the scheme to people who are not in receipt of the Living Alone Allowance would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.