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Fuel poverty

The Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, announced changes in the system of fuel and related allowances (Dail Eireann, Debates, 20th July 2011, 533-5).  From September, the fuel allowance would be standardized at €20 a week, with no additional allowances (e.g. for smokeless areas).  The telephone allowance would be reduced to €26.86 and the number of free electricity units from 2,400 to 1,800 a month.  These decisions would generate savings of €17m in 2011 and €65m annually thereafter.  These decisions had to be made following commitments of the previous government, which were provided for in the December 2010 budget but not specified or announced at the time.

Aengus O Snodaigh (SF, Dublin SC) described the cuts as indefensible at a time of rising prices and pensioners would be most affected.  He criticized arguments presented by the minister that 21% of households did not use up all their units: would she admit that she does not know who they are, whether they are the ones sitting in the dark and cold, scrimping and saving and afraid to turn on the light and use up their allowance in case they exceed it?  The minister had based a cut on the 21% on whom she had no information, as a result of which 79% would be hit by a 25% cut.   Meantime, in the Seanad, David Norris (ind, Dublin University) added that a young mother had died from hypothermia in Dublin in the past year for lack of heat. We were now facing cuts in fuel, electricity and gas allowances and supports for the the elderly (Seanad Eireann, Debates, 13th July 2011, 501).  Focus Ireland had reported a 20% increase in the numbers of people requiring services because they were homeless.

> Related references:

> Additional reference to fuel poverty: Dail Eireann, Debates, 20th July 2011, 729.

> Government priorities in the area of child poverty: Dail Eireann, Debates, 5th July 2011, 765.