Dáil Éireann - Volume 630 - 01 February, 2007

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on offering fuel [1436] allowance and living alone allowance to persons only in receipt of the Department of Education and Science ex-gratia pension who have not been eligible to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2672/07]

  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.

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 state pension (non-contributory), long-term jobseeker’s 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.

Recipients of the Department of Education and Science ex-gratia pension. These ex-gratia pensioners would be eligible for fuel allowance under the terms of the scheme as operated by my Department, if they also qualified for the State Pension (Non Contributory) or another qualifying payment and satisfied the means test.

The living alone allowance, or living alone increase as it is now known, is an additional payment of €7.70 per week made to people aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments and who are living alone. It is also available to people under 66 years of age who are living alone and who receive payments under one of a number of invalidity type schemes. The increase is intended as a contribution towards the additional costs people face when they live alone. The living alone allowance increase is not a payment in its own right but one that is paid as a supplement to a social welfare payment. As such, it cannot be paid to people without a social welfare entitlement or to those whose pension payments are made exclusively under the social security regimes of other countries. Any changes in the eligibility rules for the fuel allowance or living alone allowance increase schemes would have cost and other implications and would have to be examined in the context of the Budget and in the light of the resources available to me for improvements in social welfare generally.