Mayo Fine Gael TD John O'Mahony has called on Social Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin to provide emergency fuel allowance payments to vulnerable people suffering as a result of the bad weather.
Sinn Féin councillor Thérèse Ruane has made a similar call to help recipients cope with the current spell of freezing weather and the remainder of the winter. She has also called on people to support the vulnerable, in particular elderly people living alone.
“The bad weather over the last few weeks has been particularly difficult for many vulnerable people, especially older people, some of whom have become prisoners in their own homes,” said Dep O’Mahony.
“Many people on low incomes who currently face financial difficulty, as a result of the loss of the Christmas bonus or reduced social welfare payments including blind and disabled payments, are not heating their homes despite the cold weather in an attempt to save money.
“I believe Minister Hanafin must consider additional fuel allowance payments to relieve this suffering. A clear statement from the Minister that there would be an emergency fuel allowance payment would allow people currently facing these difficulties to spend more on heating their homes now.”
The fuel allowance payment is a weekly payment of €20 per household for 32 weeks from the end of September to May. The payment is for vulnerable people who are unable to provide for their own heating needs and who are dependent on long-term social welfare or HSE payments. Those who receive the fuel allowance include the elderly, disabled people, blind people, lone parent families, and the long term unemployed.
“Many of the least well-off families and individuals will already have spent a large part of their small incomes in attempting to keep their homes heated,” Cllr Ruane added. “By now, in many cases, their entire winter budget for fuel will have been exhausted. Therefore they will need assistance to get over this cold spell and to continue to heat their homes for the rest of the winter.
“I am urging the Minister for Social and Family Affairs to introduce a special payment as an emergency measure. Surveys have shown that almost 10 per cent of households in this State experience fuel poverty. The most straightforward way to introduce such a payment would be to make it available to all current recipients of fuel allowance but provision should also be made for other households who are in fuel poverty.”