Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys has announced the start of the National Fuel Scheme for the 2021/2022 season.

The Fuel Allowance, which is a means-assessed payment, will be paid for 28 weeks to an estimated 370,000 households across the state.

A budget of €292 million has been set aside for the upcoming season with the department providing two options of payment.

Recipients are paid a weekly rate of €28 or, if they prefer, by way of two lump sum payments of €392 each.

The first weekly payments will issue from this week in addition to recipients’ normal weekly social welfare payments.

Fuel allowance increases

In formally launching the 2021/2022 fuel season, Minister Humphreys said:

“The Fuel Allowance plays a vital role in assisting tens of thousands of households with their heating costs over the winter months.

“It acts as a financial aid for people living in low-income households to help towards the cost of the likes of electricity and heating oil.

“In recognition of its importance to so many families, I increased the weekly rate of payment by €3.50 in my first budget as social protection minister.

“I am conscious that heating costs are a concern for many and that households have seen their bills increase and return to 2019 levels.”

The minister said this will be an “important factor” for her as she continues Budget 2022 negotiations.

The minister reminded householders who were paid the Fuel Allowance last year that they will automatically be paid again this year as long as they remain entitled.

She also urges anyone who is newly eligible for the payment to submit an application immediately.

Support people with rising fuel costs

Age Action is calling on the government to expand the eligibility criteria for the Fuel Allowance and to increase the number of weeks of the year it covers from 28 to 32 to protect people from fuel poverty.

“There is a growing divide between households in terms of the energy efficiency of their homes,” Age Action said.

“Many older people cannot afford expensive home retrofitting and they are vulnerable to fuel poverty. While some older people benefit from Fuel Allowance, many do not; there are approximately 713,000 beneficiaries of the state pension, of which 131,432 receive the Fuel Allowance [which may represent couples in some cases].”