The Fuel Allowance is a payment of €33.00 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €924 each year) from October to April, to 369,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €300 million in 2021. 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.
Qualifying payments for fuel allowance are those payments that are considered long term payments and an applicant must also satisfy a means test. People on long term payments are unlikely to have additional resources of their own and are more vulnerable to poverty, including energy poverty. It is for this reason that the Department allocates additional payments, supports and resources to help this cohort of claimants. The reason Illness Benefit is not a qualifying payment for Fuel Allowance is that, in the majority of cases, Illness Benefit is a short-term payment for those who are certified by their GP as needing to take time out from their employment due to illness.
While the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) is not a qualifying payment for the fuel allowance, it does not prevent an otherwise qualified household from receiving the payment. If a PUP recipient subsequently moves to Jobseeker's Allowance, qualifying periods spent in receipt of PUP immediately before a Jobseekers claim can be considered towards the days necessary to qualify for Fuel Allowance.
Any decision to extend the eligibility criteria for Fuel Allowance to include people in receipt of Illness Benefit or the PUP would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary 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. Decisions on such payments are made on a case-by-case basis. I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.