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Household Utility Bills Support: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1003 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Sean Sherlock: Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock] The 11,922 people who availed of the payment in December and January is a small number relative to the 300,000 plus in receipt of the payment. That is our core point.

I want to speak to the element of the motion that deals with the PUP, and it not being a qualifying payment for the fuel allowance. We are seeing a growing phenomenon in our constituency offices of people who are feeling the effects of long Covid. I appreciate that the science in regard to measuring the effects of long Covid might not be up-to-date but the phenomenon of long Covid and its effect on people is widely accepted. There is a sufficient evidence base in that regard. The enhanced illness benefit is the current payment that meets the needs of those people, as I understand it. I ask the Minister to undertake a budgetary analysis of people who are suffering the effects of long Covid and to design a payment that would include provision for a fuel allowance to meet the needs of households with people who had been working but are no longer able to work because of the long-term physical effects of Covid. That would be a stringent exercise. I merely want to it put on the record of the Dáil today in relation to the Minister's agenda. I am asking her to look afresh at measuring the long-term impact of long Covid and to examine if additional supports can be put into that budgetary line, including a potential provision for fuel allowance payments where there is a fuel poverty marker in a given household.

I accept the points made by Deputy Bruton but the people I am meeting are not in a position to be able to avail of the supports that have been articulated by him. Whatever about local authority programmes and the progress in that regard, which I acknowledge, the people who have availed of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland grants in respect of the extensive work that needs to be carried out on the housing stock are people who do not have the means and cannot access loans to bring their houses up to the required standard such that fuel poverty is extinguished. There is still a significant gap in the housing stock that is plugged, by and large, by the fuel allowance. I understand and acknowledge that progress is being made but it needs to be accelerated. While that acceleration of enhancement of buildings and housing stock is under way, eligibility for the fuel allowance should be looked at again, if at all possible. I acknowledge that the number of people in receipt of the fuel allowance is significant, but if it could be looked at afresh, particularly in regard to those people in fuel impoverished houses, that would be widely welcomed.

Deputy Gary Gannon: Information on Gary Gannon Zoom on Gary Gannon I am sharing time with Deputy Whitmore. I commend Deputy Kerrane and Sinn Féin for bringing forth this motion. I acknowledge that across this Chamber there is nobody, be that in opposition or in government, who wants to see a scenario in this country where people are cold.

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