Dáil Éireann - Volume 506 - 03 June, 1999

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

79. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the situation [129] regarding entitlement of widows to a fuel allowance; if those who were widowed before a certain date in the Dublin area retain their rights to the national fuel scheme irrespective of income limit; the cut-off date in this regard; the number qualifying under this special provision; and if he will give details in this matter. [14748/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The aim of the national fuel scheme is to assist householders who are on long-term social welfare or health board payments and who are unable to provide for their own heating needs. A payment of £5 per week, or £8 per week in smokeless zones, is paid to eligible households for 26 weeks from mid-October to mid-April.

The national fuel scheme is a means tested payment where the applicant may have household income of £15 per week or savings or investments of £8,000 in addition to the maximum rate of the appropriate Irish contributory pension and still qualify for the fuel allowance. The current income limit will be increased from £15 to £30 per week in addition to the maximum rate of the relevant contributory social welfare payment, with effect from the commencement of the next heating season in October 1999.

Persons who had been in receipt of a fuel allowance under the urban fuel scheme prior to the rationalisation of the fuel schemes and the takeover by my Department of the national fuel scheme in 1988, but who failed to meet the qualifying conditions under the national fuel scheme, were allowed to retain their entitlement provided they continued to satisfy the conditions for the urban fuel scheme. These were known as “saver cases”.

The urban fuel scheme was operated by the local authorities and there was automatic entitlement for recipients of old age non-contributory pensions, blind pensions and widow's contributory and non-contributory pensions regardless of means, subject to the one per household rule, provided they resided in the functional area of the local authority or in a house provided by the local authority.

The changeover date from the urban fuel scheme to the national fuel scheme was April 1988, the end of the 1987-88 heating season.

Details of the number of widows who qualified for the fuel allowance under the saver clause are not available.