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Social Welfare Benefits

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 25 November 2021

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Ceisteanna (81)

Seán Canney

Ceist:

81. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the current situation in which a carer whose sole income is the carer’s allowance cannot access the fuel allowance; if she plans to address this anomaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57012/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

The Fuel Allowance is a payment of €33.00 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €924 over a full fuel season) 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.

The Government values the role of carers very much and it is for this reason that they receive significant income supports from my Department. In addition to Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Benefit 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 Carer's Support Grant in respect of each person for whom they care.

While Carer's Allowance is not a qualifying payment for Fuel Allowance, a person in receipt of Carer's Allowance may avail of the fuel allowance payment in certain circumstances. Fuel Allowance is a household-based payment, and a carer will very often live with and care for a person in receipt of a qualifying payment for Fuel Allowance. Income from full rate Carer's Allowance is disregarded from the fuel means test, if the carer is providing full time care and attention to the Fuel Allowance applicant, his/her qualified spouse / civil partner or cohabitant or qualified child(ren).

The maximum rates of Carer's Allowance for those aged under 66, at €219 (€257 for carers aged 66 or over) for where one person is being cared for, and €328.50 (€385.50 for carers aged 66 or over) where there are two or more carees, is higher than that for most schemes administered by my Department.

The means test for carers allowance has been significantly eased over the years and is now one of the most generous means tests in the social welfare system, most notably with regard to spouse’s earnings. In Budget 2022, I announced further easing of the means test with the disregard when assessing capital increased to €50,000 from June 2022 and with the earnings disregard increasing to €350 for a single carer and to €750 for a carer with a spouse/partner. Carers can also engage in employment, self-employment, training or education courses outside the home for not more than 18.5 hours a week.

Any decision to include Carer's Allowance as a qualifying payment for fuel allowance 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 costs. Decisions on such payments are made on a case-by-case basis.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 29.
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