Fuel allowance extended due to cold snap

Government announces one week extension of€20 payment to 410,000 recipients

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton wanted to reassure recipients of the fuel allowance during the cold snap. Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton wanted to reassure recipients of the fuel allowance during the cold snap. Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Wed, Mar 27, 2013, 13:43

The free fuel scheme allowance is to be extended for a week because of the cold weather, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

Mr Kenny said the scheme ran for six months, normally covering the coldest months of the year. The payment of the €20 per week allowance was due to end on April 1st but has been extended to the week beginning April 8th.

“The Government considered this yesterday,’’ he added. “This is a particularly bitter spell of weather and, therefore, the scheme is being extended bya week. Obviously, next week the Government will reflect on the continuing degree of temperatures and weather as applies.’’

Mr Kenny was replying in the Dail today to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who welcomed the Government’s decision and urged it to reflect on the issue when the week had passed. He said it was a small step in the right direction, adding that the allowance should be restored to to former levels.

In a statement Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said she wanted to “reassure” the 410,000 recipients who may have been worried about heating homes during the cold snap.

The extension “should ensure that recipients are covered throughout this unseasonable weather spell,” she said.

Most recipients of payments from the €211m scheme which runs annually from October to April, are in receipt of State pensions, one-parent family payments, disability payments or long term job-seeker’s allowance.

Independent TD Seamus Healy urged Ms Burton to permanently restore the six week cut in the heating period removed in Budget 2012 and the cuts in gas and electricity allowances introduced in Budge 2013.

However he welcomed the “limited measure” taken by the Government. Age Action urged the Government to reverse the wider cuts made to fuel supports paid to older people under the household benefits package.

Headd of advocacy Eamon Timmins said the full impact of the reduction in gas and electricity support payments in December’s budget had only become clear recently as bills arrived.

He urged older people to stay warm by dressing correctly, remaning active, eating well and using the free electricity or gas allocation.

Active Retirement Ireland said a week extension was not a sufficient response to the cold snap. “All over the country, older people are restricted in their daily movements by the snow and the cold weather,” Maureen Kavanagh chief executive of Active Retirement said.