An additional 80,000 households will become eligible for fuel allowance next year, following changes to the means test of the scheme announced by Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys.
Under the new measures, a single person over 70 can have income of €500 per week and a couple can have income of €1,000 per week and qualify for the allowance.
People over 70 will no longer need to be in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment to be eligible for fuel allowance.
The limit for the amount of savings a person has also been increased under the expansion, with the first €50,000 in savings and investments now being completely disregarded in the means test.
The fuel allowance is a means-tested payment to assist with winter heating costs and is paid at the weekly rate of €33.
Currently, over 370,000 households receive the payment, with the number of beneficiaries expected to rise to 450,000 under the expansion.
It is the largest ever expansion to the fuel allowance scheme, with the changes taking effect from January 2nd, 2023. Individuals can apply through an online form on mywelfare.ie.
Speaking at the Mother McAuley day centre for older people in Drimnagh, Dublin, on Monday, Ms Humphreys said she doesn’t want a situation in which someone is afraid to turn on the heating over the winter.
“Our senior citizens have worked hard all their lives; they have put in their shift, and I want to make sure they can live in comfort,” she said.
“As you get older you get colder. It’s based along the lines of the medical card for over 70s. I think that’s important because the one thing I don’t want to see is older people sitting at home, afraid to turn on the heating because they can’t afford it. This will make a difference to them.”
Ms Humphreys also announced she will be bringing proposals to Cabinet on Wednesday with plans for a pay-related benefit.
“What I’m trying to do here is your benefit, when you’re made redundant, will be commensurate to what you paid in. We know that a lot of people over a lot of years have paid into the social insurance fund, then when they become unemployed, there’s a cliff drop in their income. It really is the edge of a cliff,” she said.
“We want to ease that for them. It’s something I have been working on. I’m going to bring proposals to cabinet on Wednesday.”