Wednesday, 1 February 1995
Dáil Éireann Debate
116. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Social Welfare if provision will be made in the 1995 budget to extend the national fuel scheme to include persons in receipt of small retirement pensions from local authorities and other such bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2218/95]
124. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Social Welfare the annual cost of the fuel allowance scheme; the extra cost involved if the £5 private income figure were increased to £10 or £15; if he will increase the £5 threshold figure; and if he will grant a partial fuel allowance to persons who are only slightly over the limit. [2323/95]
The national fuel scheme assists householders who are in receipt of long term social welfare or health board payments and who are unable to provide for their heating needs. An applicant for a fuel allowance must also satisfy a means test to establish that he or she is unable to provide for his or her heating needs. One fuel allowance is payable per household. An applicant and his household who have a combined income, from any source of more than £5 a week above the relevant contributory social welfare income, will not qualify for the allowance.
Depending on their income, a person in receipt of an occupational pension  may be entitled to receive an old age — non-contributory — pension from my Department. In that event and where the other conditions are satisfied, they will qualify for the fuel scheme.
Final figures for the cost of the 1994 fuel scheme are not yet available. However, the outturn is expected to be in the region of £40.3 million. The estimated annual cost of increasing the weekly rate of fuel allowance by £1 is £7.3 million. The estimated annual cost of increasing the £5 means limit to £10 is less than £100,000. The estimated annual cost of increasing the £5 means limit of £15 is less than £200,000.
The question of increasing the limit for additional income and extending the scheme to additional groups not currently covered would have financial implications which would have to be considered in the light of available resources.
117. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Social Welfare if provision will be made in the 1995 budget to extend Social Welfare benefits and schemes which are generally available to old age pensioners, to recipients of widows and widowers pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2225/95]
122. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will give free scheme benefits such as a free bus passes to persons on sickness pensions from semi-State bodies as is currently given to social welfare invalidity cases; the numbers and cost involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2320/95]
127. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will amend the rules governing the free schemes, including travel, to allow the facilities to widows between the ages of 60-66 whose husbands' were entitled to the schemes at the time of death but had not applied for them. [2327/95]
The free schemes administered by my Department include free travel, free electricity allowance, free natural gas allowance, free telephone rental allowance and free television licence. They are available in the case of free travel to all persons in the State, aged 66 years and over, and to certain disabled people under age 66 and, in the case of the other schemes, to persons who are in receipt of a welfare-type payment and who are either living alone or who otherwise satisfy the living alone condition.
The free schemes are intended to serve specific purposes in relation to the people who are entitled to them. Free travel is intended to encourage the elderly or disabled to remain active in the community, while the free electricity allowance, free natural gas allowance, free telephone rental allowance and the free television licence schemes are designed to encourage elderly or disabled people who are living alone, on limited means, to continue to live in their homes and to provide them with an element of security.
The annual cost of the free schemes is of the order of £90 million. Improvements and enhancements of those schemes are considered in the light of perceived need and the availability of additional financial resources. Consequently, the extension of the existing schemes to groups of recipients not already covered, such as widows, widowers, and those on public service occupational sickness pensions, would have to be considered in that context.
118. Miss Harney asked the Minister for Social Welfare in view of the circumstances of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary, if he will have arrangements made to have the living alone allowance and other benefits restored to her; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2233/95]
She had been receiving living alone allowance and free electricity allowance but these were withdrawn in September 1994 when it was discovered that her son, who is in receipt of unemployment assistance, was residing with her.
In view of the information supplied by the Deputy, a Social Welfare Inspector has been asked to call on her in the near future to explore the possibility of her son's entitlement to a carer's allowance. If her son qualifies for a carer's allowance instead of unemployment assistance, it will be possible to restore free electricity allowance in her case.
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