Tuesday, 18 November 1980
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Harte: asked the Minister for Health if he is aware of the grave dissatisfaction in County Donegal concerning the unsatisfactory free fuel scheme and of general concern regarding payment; and in view of the disquiet if he will make a statement on the matter.
Dr. Woods: There has been an increase in the number of applicants for free fuel in Donegal from approximately 2,500 in previous years to 5,800 this year. Because of the necessity to ascertain the eligibility of those not in receipt of the fuel allowance from previous years, payments could not be made until this week. Over 2,000 cheques issued by the beginning of this week and the balance will be paid as soon as possible. The health board decided that to facilitate recipients of the allowance, this should be paid to them in two cheques of £30 each.
Community welfare officers have been instructed to deal with cases of need through the supplementary welfare  allowances scheme in respect of applicants who previously benefited at a higher level under arrangements operated by the health board.
Mr. Boland: Is the Minister aware that in County Donegal a situation existed whereby some 50 or 60 district committees administered the fuel scheme on behalf of the health board and thereby were able to ensure that fuel was actually delivered to needy recipients rather than the money being diverted for other purposes and that this scheme will now be set aside as a result of the package? Has he any proposals to improve the situation in that regard?
Mr. Boland: It is. Is the Minister aware that 60 local committees composed of interested people from various bodies in Donegal operate a series of services for the health boards, that one of the areas they administered was the free fuel scheme and that the change will be a risk for the families of recipients in County Donegal who may not always spend the money on the fuel for which it is intended? Is there any way in which the moneys can be diverted to ensure that the fuel is actually delivered?
Dr. Woods: I think I have given the answer in relation to the scheme as it exists. The question which the Deputy raises is whether it is desirable to have a voucher scheme. That scheme arose after fairly long and detailed consideration by the numerous interests involved and after a private study was done in the Eastern Health Board area. It has considerable advantages apart from the disadvantage that the Deputy mentions. In that respect he would see from the application increases that obviously it has attracted a wider number of people to avail of the  scheme. The voucher is available for bottled gas and various other fuels. The only thing I could say at this stage is that we will keep that under review.
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