Changes | 

81,000 more people to benefit from Fuel Allowance scheme worth almost €1,000

Thousands more Irish households are set to qualify for the first time from next year

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath and Social Protection Minister Heather Humphrey. Photo: Maxwells

Hugh O'

Thousands more Irish households are set to qualify for the Fuel Allowance scheme, worth almost €1,000, for the first time from next year.

People over 70 who earn as much as €500 a week will now qualify for the payment, totalling €924 across 28 weeks from September every year.

Couples where only one person is aged over 70 will also be able to avail of the allowance, provided their combined income is no more than €1,000 a week.

The assessed income will include their State pension and is a significant increase on the current thresholds of €373 for a single person and €600 for a couple.

The changes will be announced next month by Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys and are expected to benefit up to 81,000 older people now eligible for the allowance.

From January, people over 70 who qualify will be able to avail of the allowance, which is paid at a rate of €33 per week from September to April.

A Government source said the idea was modelled on the separate means test that applies for people over 70 who qualify for medical cards.

“Older people are more vulnerable to cold. Heather (Humphreys) doesn’t want them to be afraid to turn on their heating,” the source said.

It comes after the Government announced yesterday that a €400 fuel allowance lump-sum payment will be paid this week to 370,000 households that currently qualify for the payment.

A further €500 will be given to those receiving the Working Family Payment today.

More than 234,000 people are in receipt of the Living Alone Increase and they will be given a €200 lump sum this week.

Carers who qualify for the Carer’s Support Grant will get a once-off payment of €500.

The measures were announced in September’s Budget as part of the one-off cost-of-living package but were confirmed at a press conference yesterday.

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath said the Government would keep under review the possibility of further payments to households next year.

“We will consider the circumstances that we face as we go through next year. We are seeing the economic winds change: there is a certain amount of uncertainty,” he said.

It comes as the Cabinet also approved €3.2 billion in supplementary estimates for this year across several departments whose spending increased as a result of the influx of Ukrainian refugees, the cost-of-living crisis, the Covid pandemic, changes to the school transport scheme, and the public sector pay deal.

As the highest ever supplementary budget for a calendar year, it includes a €1.4bn bailout for the Department of Health, €852m for the Department of Education and €722m for the Department of Social Protection.

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