Archive for December 28, 2011

Fuel Poverty-Paddy Healy Replies to Minister Rabitte

December 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Department of Social Protection Website    Minister Joan Burton TD

“regrettably there is an ongoing necessity to achieve savings due to our commitments with the IMF/EU/ECB Troika.”

“The Government today approved changes to the Fuel Allowance and Household Benefits schemes that will bring annual savings of €65 million.  Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD, said: “While we want to protect the basic social welfare payments which have very positive economic and social effects, regrettably there is an ongoing necessity to achieve savings due to our commitments with the IMF/EU/ECB Troika.  The savings arising from this measure were provided for last December in Budget 2011 but were not specified or announced by the Government at that time.”

From September 2011 the Fuel Allowance is to be standardised at €20 per week, the rate currently received by the majority of customers, with no additional allowance for living in a smokeless area.  The cost of the Telephone Allowance will be reduced following negotiations with Eircom which will ensure that customers receive €26.86 of value on their bills, at a cost to the State of €22.22 per month.  The number of free units provided under the Electricity and Gas Allowance will be reduced to the 2007 level: this reduction may be offset to some extent if customers switch to other companies in search of better deals.  These three measures will generate savings of €17 million in 2011 and €65 million annually.

Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD, said: “Assistance with the cost of fuel, electricity, gas and telephone bills has always been an important element of social welfare provision and will continue. My Department will spend over €530 million, over half a billion euros, in 2011 on these schemes which benefit over 630,000 people. Help will also continue to be available for vulnerable people with special or additional heating needs through the Heating Supplement and Exceptional Needs Payment Scheme under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme.”


Below is an unedited version of my letter published in Irish Times to-day Dec 28
Paddy Healy 086-4183732
Dear Editor,
Minister Rabitte (Irish Times letters Dec 27) seeks to contradict the piece by Fintan O’Toole on fuel poverty (Irish Times December 20)
The Labour- Fine Gael government has introduced two cuts in fuel allowances through Minister for Social protection, Joan Burton, since coming to power. From September, the smokeless fuel allowance was abolished and the annual allowance of free units was reduced from 2400 to 1800. In Budget 2012, the heating period was reduced by 6 weeks. Fuel allowance is a means tested payment. Only the poor are entitled to this benefit.
The piece of research to which Minister Rabitte and Fintan O’Toole refer is“Fuel Poverty, Older People and Cold Weather: An all-island analysis”, (at It found that the excess winter death rate in the Republic for the winter of 2006/7 was 1,281. Of these, 1,216 were aged over-65. The majority died of cardiovascular and respiratory illness – cold-related conditions. The fuel allowance in the year in question was only fractionally less than that now available and fuel prices are now much higher.
During the new year, 2012, the hundredth anniversary of the proposal by Connolly and Larkin to the Irish TUC meeting in Clonmel that a Labour Party should be founded will occur. It is scarcely credible that a party which claims Connolly as founder should be cutting fuel allowances to the poor. This is all the more so as the Labour Party, just over a year ago when in opposition, introduced a private members motion in Dáil Éireann (October 12, 2010) calling on the government to increase fuel allowances!
Fintan O’Toole was right to refer to refer to “the unacceptable reality that current policies are making Ireland a cold house for basic decency.”
Yours sincerely,
Paddy Healy

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