The fuel allowance is a payment of €22.50 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €630 each year) from October to April, to over 372,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €240 million in 2019. 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 Household benefits scheme at an estimated cost of €188 million in 2019. This is paid at a rate of €35 per month, 12 months of the year.
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 carers support grant (€1,700) in respect of each person for whom they care.
Fuel Allowance is a household-based payment, and a Carer will very often live with and be caring for a person with a qualifying payment for Fuel Allowance. Income from full rate carers allowance is disregarded if the carer is providing full time care and attention to the Fuel Allowance applicant, their qualified spouse / civil partner or cohabitant or qualified child(ren).
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 protection 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. It should also be noted that 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 satisfy a means test to qualify for fuel allowance.
Any decision to amend the criteria for receiving fuel allowance to include a carer’s allowance as a qualifying payment in the circumstances the Deputy has outlined 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 cost.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.