Dáil Éireann - Volume 625 - 10 October, 2006

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Code.

Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a non-contributory State pensioner who earns €100 per week from insurable employment will still be entitled to the fuel allowance; if so, his views on applying a similar disregard for contributory pensioners who have additional income from occupational pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32138/06]

  Mr. Brennan: The aim of the national fuel scheme is to assist householders on long-term social welfare or health service executive payments with meeting the cost of their additional heating needs during the winter season. Fuel allowances are paid for 29 weeks from end-September to mid-April and are not intended to meet the full cost of heating.

[316] Eligibility to the fuel allowance scheme is subject to means and other conditions. The main conditions that apply to the fuel allowance scheme are that a person must be in receipt of a qualifying payment, must satisfy a means test and must either be living alone or with a qualifying dependant.

People who already qualify for means-tested pensions or allowances such as old age (non-contributory) pension, long-term unemployment assistance or one-parent family payment do not have to undergo a further means test to qualify for fuel allowance. The majority of people who receive fuel allowances qualify because they satisfy the relevant means test for their primary weekly payment.

From 2006 a person in receipt of State Pension (non contributory) can also have up to €100 in earnings per week from insurable employment and still be entitled to fuel allowance.

In the case of contributory pensions such as state pension (contributory) — formerly old age (contributory) pension — state pension (transition) — formerly retirement pension — and invalidity pensions, which are not means tested, earnings from insurable employment and/or occupational pensions are normally regarded as means for the purpose of determining an individual’s entitlement to a fuel allowance. A person may have savings/investments of up to €46,000 or a combined household income of up to €51 per week over and above the maximum rate of state pension (contributory) and still qualify for fuel allowance. This income limit was increased to €51 per week with effect from 1 June 2005.

Any changes in the means rules for the scheme, such as an increase in the means disregard for contributory pensioners, would have cost implications and would have to be considered in the context of the Budget and in the light of the resources available to me for improvements in social welfare generally.