OVER 400,000 PEOPLE receiving the weekly fuel allowance from the government are to be given the payment for an extra week this year, following the sustained cold weather.
Social Protection minister Joan Burton has said the payment, which was due to be ceased after next week’s weekly payment, will be extended for one more week in light of the unseasonably cold weather.
“I want to reassure recipients worried about heating their homes during the current cold snap, so I am extending the scheme by one week,” Burton said.
With the flat-rate payment of €20 a week, extending the payment period will cost about €8.2 million.
“This extension should ensure that recipients are covered throughout this unseasonable weather spell. This will make it easier for recipients to heat their homes and I hope this will give them peace.”
Asked whether the extra week’s payment for 2012-2013 would impact on next year’s season, Burton said any change would be “in the context of” her Department’s €20.3 billion Budget for 2013, adding:
When it comes to, for instance, the fuel season in the winter, we will again be keeping a look at what the temperatures are like and responding depending on temperature.
The allowance is paid to people in receipt of a range of different benefits of welfare payments and who satisfy a means test. The payment is made for 26 weeks, between the beginning of October and the beginning of April.
The payment had previously been made for 32 weeks but was cut in Budget 2012.
This morning’s announcement followed calls from Age Action Ireland, and from Fianna Fáil, that the payment be extended given how the weather had been so cold.
“We are being contacted by older people who are currently facing energy bills of €400 to €500 for January and February,” said Eamon Timmins of Age Action Ireland.
“The combination of cuts introduced by the Government are adding to the hardship and worry faced by these people.”