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Household Utility Bills Support: Motion [Private Members]

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1003 No. 7

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  10 o’clock

Household Utility Bills Support: Motion [Private Members]

Deputy Claire Kerrane: Information on Claire Kerrane Zoom on Claire Kerrane I move:

That Dáil Éireann:
notes that:
— 475,364 people received the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) last week, an increase of 15,443 on the previous week;

— the society of St. Vincent de Paul estimates that energy poverty affects one in six households in Ireland, and is concerned that a significant proportion of households will be in energy debt as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic;

— a person who loses their job cannot access the Fuel Allowance until they are in receipt of a Jobseeker’s payment for more than 390 days (over 15 months);

— the Fuel Allowance is not available to recipients of the PUP;

— the PUP rates have not been adjusted to take into account increased heating costs during winter months and households currently have to make their weekly payments stretch even further to meet these costs; and

— many households on reduced income as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic are ineligible for the Fuel Allowance due to the limited qualifying criteria, which does not consider the financial impact of the pandemic and the urgent support these households need during difficult winter months; and
calls on the Government to:
— suspend the requirement that a person who loses their job must be in receipt of a Jobseeker’s payment for over 15 months before they can qualify for the Fuel Allowance, for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic, and review the qualifying period thereafter;

— extend the Fuel Allowance of €28 per week to PUP recipients;

— establish a discretionary fund for Covid-19 utility debt, of an initial five million euro, to provide assistance to individuals and households struggling with Covid-19 related heating and electricity costs;

— ensure that the budget for the Exceptional Needs Payment is sufficient, as well as ensuring access to and flexibility from Community Welfare Officers; and

— make a double payment of the Fuel Allowance to all existing recipients for two weeks in February.

Almost 480,000 people received the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, yesterday. They have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. For every one of those workers, their outgoings and bills remain the same - indeed, some bills have increased because they are spending more time at home - but, in many cases, their income has been reduced. The only new message from the Government for those people on the PUP who have lost their jobs is that they will be receiving a tax bill. That is all they have heard from the Government. In some cases, that tax bill will be up to €1,400.

  Last autumn, I carried out a survey relating to household debt. More than 300 respondents shared their stories with me. This is what some of them told me:

Lost all my work and struggled to pay the household bills. Had to borrow money to pay some bills.

Unable to manage the higher bills like electric and ... fuel costs now coming into the Winter. I’m on lower income with PUP ... Now looking at services that can be cut.

Shopping on a weekly basis is gone. We don't have it as bills come first ...

... I'm trying to keep things together for the sake of my family. I cry most nights going to bed, so my son and husband do not see how much of a toll it is taking on me. [Both of us are] out of work ...

The price of utility bills keeps rising. I had to take unpaid ... leave [from work] as crèches could not take my baby, so we are struggling now with just one income.

Last Updated: 22/03/2021 09:55:41 First Page Previous Page Page of 93 Next Page Last Page