The Government is committed to protecting vulnerable households from the impact of energy costs through a combination of supports, energy efficiency awareness initiatives, and investment in programmes to improve the energy efficiency of the housing stock.
In light of ESRI research and the commitment to ensure that the carbon tax is progressive, the Government has committed to very significant increases in a targeted package of social protection supports in Budget 2022. The total cost of these interventions is projected at €146m in 2022. These supports were selected to counteract the impact of the increased carbon tax on low income households. The specific measures are:
i. An increase to the Qualified Child Payment of €2 per week for children under 12 and €3 per week for children aged 12 and over.
ii. An increase in the Living Alone Allowance of €3 per week.
iii. An increase in the Working Family Payment of €10 per week.
iv. An increase to the Fuel Allowance of €5 per week.
In Budget 2022, I also announced further easing of the qualifying criteria for Fuel Allowance with the allowable means increased by €20 to €120 above the relevant State Pension Contributory rate. I also announced that the eligibility for Jobseeker’s and Supplementary Welfare Allowance recipients will be enhanced by reducing the qualifying period from 15 to 12 months with effect from September 2022. This measure is estimated to benefit some 3,300 households.
My Department also provides discretionary exceptional needs payments, where appropriate, to people who face difficulties in meeting fuel bills. These payments are not ring-fenced or budget limited as they would be if they were drawn from an earmarked fund, but rather are demand led.
The provision of any further additional supports above those announced on Budget Day would have cost implications and could only be considered while taking account of the overall budgetary context and the availability of financial resources.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.