As someone over 70, will I get fuel allowance even though I am not on a State pension? – The Irish

Could you clarify whether or not over 70s who are in receipt of occupational pensions of less than €1,000 per week (gross) and not in receipt of social welfare benefits will become entitled to the fuel allowance from January 1st?

Mr B.McK.

With soaring energy prices, there is possibly more attention this year on the fuel allowance than would normally be the case. It is worth chasing. It amounts to €33 a week and is paid over 28 weeks — more than half the year. That amounts to €924 so it is not to be sneezed at.

This year the payment kicked in on September 27th and will run until April 10th next year. And, as the temperature has largely remained very mild so far, the hope is that recipients have not had to resort to heavy use of heating just yet.

In addition, as part of the Government’s budget day cost-of-living package, they announced that any household receiving the fuel allowance would also get a €400 lump sum cost-of-living support payment. That is due to be paid in two weeks’ time — the week beginning November 14th.

In the budget, although the Government did not increase the weekly sum payable they have made a significant change with the introduction of a new income threshold for people over the age of 70, as you have noticed. Until now, the fuel allowance means test had to show that you had weekly income of no more than €120 a week over any social welfare payments you might be receiving. From January 1st, 2023, anyone over the age of 70 will be eligible if their income is no more than €500 a week — and double that, €1,000 a week, for a couple over that age threshold.

For anyone under the age of 70, there was also a sizeable increase in the income threshold — to €200 over weekly welfare income from €120.

Figures from Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys for 2021 said that about 372,000 households across the State benefited from the payment at a cost to the State of some €300 million. On the basis of the changes announced in the budget, both of those figures are likely to rise substantially this year.

On that basis, it is easy to see why you might hope to be included.

However, the first eligibility criterion for the fuel allowance is that the recipient (or applicant) be in receipt of a long-term social welfare payment. These include any of the various State pensions, jobseeker’s allowance, disability allowance, farm assist, deserted wife’s benefit or allowance, a one-parent family payment, or a guardian’s payment.

In fact, the allowance is payable alongside a person’s weekly welfare payment — or alternately, at the discretion of the Department of Social Protection, in two lump sums — so it is closely linked to the payment of welfare.

Even though you will meet the income criteria for the allowance from January, you do not at present receive any social welfare benefit. On that basis, you will not be eligible for the payment in the new year.

I hesitate to be definitive here because the Finance Bill — the legislation that gives legal force to budget measures — is still passing through the Oireachtas. It is most unlikely that the Government would make a change of this nature as it would fundamentally, and likely permanently, alter the eligibility rules for the allowance in a way that would be detrimental to the State’s coffers. But until the Finance Bill is formally passed and signed by the President, there is always the possibility, however unlikely, of amendment to the rules.

Read More: As someone over 70, will I get fuel allowance even though I am not on a State pension? – The Irish

2022-10-31 22:56:47

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