In addition to payments under specific social welfare schemes, my Department does provide a number of targeted payments to help people with their household costs including Fuel Allowance, the Living Alone Allowance, Telephone Support Allowance and both Exceptional and Urgent Needs Payments as part of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme for people who have an urgent need, which they cannot meet from their own resources. However, my Department does not provide direct funding to cover charges or taxes such as management fees or the local property tax.
The Fuel Allowance is a payment of €33.00 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €924 each year) from October to April. The purpose of this payment is to assist qualifying households with their energy costs. To help mitigate the increased cost of heating a household, two additional lumpsum payments of €125 and €100 were approved for those in receipt of fuel allowance. This means that low-income households will see an increase of 55% in Fuel allowance support provided during this Fuel Allowance season compared to last season. A recipient household which would have received €735 in fuel season 2020/2021 would see an increase of €404 to €1,139 in Fuel Allowance payments in fuel season 2021/2022.
The Household Benefits package (HHB) comprises the electricity or gas allowance, and the free television licence. The package is generally available to people living in the State aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of a social welfare type payment or who satisfy a means test. The package is also available to some people under the age of 66, who are in receipt of certain welfare type payments. The electricity or gas allowance element of the HHB is paid at a rate of €35 a month.
Telephone Support Allowance (TSA) is a weekly payment of €2.50. People in receipt of certain qualifying payments from the Department as well as the Living Alone Allowance and Fuel Allowance will automatically qualify for the TSA. TSA supports recipients by assisting them with the cost of communications and/or home security solutions. The primary objective of the TSA is to support the most vulnerable people at risk of isolation, including the elderly and those with disabilities, access to critical communications infrastructure.
The supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme is the safety net within the overall social welfare system in that it provides assistance to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and those of their dependents. Under the SWA scheme my Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. In addition, support can be provided through a supplement under the SWA scheme which can be awarded to assist with ongoing or recurring costs that cannot be met from the person's own resources and are deemed to be necessary.
Decisions on ENPs and SWA supplements are made at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.