I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The Government is committed to supporting households to control and meet energy costs through a combination of monetary supports, as well as investment to improve the energy efficiency of the housing stock.
My Department provides a range of supports to assist people with their fuel costs. Fuel allowance is currently paid to over 369,000 at an estimated annual cost of €323 million in 2021. As part of the overall welfare budget package of €600 million in increases which I secured for 2022, I was pleased to be able to increase the fuel allowance payment by €5 per week effective from budget night. In addition, as part of the budget, I increased the weekly income threshold for fuel allowance by €20. This change to the means test was due to take effect from January 2022. However, cognisant of rising fuel costs, I asked my officials to prioritise the work required to IT systems to allow this to be implemented as soon as possible. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that this work will be completed at the end of this week, with the effective date for the implementation of the revised means test backdated to budget day. These two measures, which increase the value of the fuel allowance payment by €59 million, or 20%, on a full year basis, mean that the weekly payment has increased from €22.50 to €33 per since 2016. That is an increase of just under 50% over the period.
In addition to the fuel allowance, other important supports are also available. For example, the electricity and gas allowances are currently paid to over 460,000 recipients at an estimated annual cost in 2021 of €195 million. Other payments, such as increases for the qualified children and living alone allowances and the working family payment, are also shown to be effective in supporting those households that will be most challenged by increases in energy costs. Again, I was pleased to be able to bring forward increases in these payments as part of budget 2022, valued at €98 million in a full year.