Three €200 payments to households to help with winter bills included in Budget 2023

One-off lump sums and increases in eligibility for fuel allowance to cushion blow of climbing energy costs

Households will benefit from three payments of €200 to help with utility bills over the winter, costing the exchequer €1.2 billion. The three payments, confirmed by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath during his budget speech, will be made in November, January and March in an effort to cushion the blow of rampant energy costs which are expected to peak in the early part of 2023.

The Government has also signalled changes to eligibility for some welfare measures, as well as a swathe of one-off payments to those households in receipt of energy subsidies.

As many as 87,000 households who will become eligible for the fuel allowance in January look set to miss out on a €400 lump sum payment that is being paid in November to people who already qualify for the scheme.

The fuel allowance means threshold is due to increase from €120 to €200 per week above the contributory state pension rate in January which could add 17,000 households to the scheme.

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For the over-70s, the weekly means limit will be increased to €500 per week for single people and €1,000 per week for a couple, which could see between 60,000 and 70,000 new households get the fuel allowance.

However, it appears that these households will miss out on a €400 lump sum payment to be made in November to around 370,000 people who already qualify for the allowance.

Independent TD Joan Collins raised the issue in the Dáil on Tuesday evening, asking if the households being brought into the fuel allowance net will get the €400 payment in January.

A spokesman for Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys did not respond to a query on whether or not there is a prospect of this happening.

He did say that changing the means test system “takes time” including the need to put new IT systems in place to “bring tens of thousands of extra people on board” and that there will be an application process.

The spokesman also highlighted how there will be eight different lump sum payments for people between now and Christmas.

In an example provided by Mr McGrath, a single pensioner living alone in receipt of the fuel allowance would receive an additional €2,375 between now and the end of next year as a result of the changes announced on budget day.

The rampant increases in energy prices have been the main reason why the Government has been forced to combine €4.1 billion in one-off measures alongside €6.9 billion in a “normal” budget day package.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said that updated forecasts drawn up by his department showed that headline inflation is now running at highs “not seen in many decades”. The rate is now predicted to be 8.5 per cent for 2022, and just over 7 per cent for 2023. It has led to the Government changing its fiscal strategy, doubling the size of the tax package and increasing public expenditure.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times