The Government will increase the fuel allowance by €2 a week and pump €13m into a warmer homes scheme in a bid to help hard-pressed families cope with the new carbon tax.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe confirmed the decision as he revealed the budget 2020 plans to the Dáil just after 1pm on Tuesday, admitting the “burden of carbon tax falls unequally” and that people at risk of “fuel poverty” must be protected.
In an hour-long speech to TDs, Mr Donohoe said the Department of Social Protection will retain the Christmas bonus for welfare recipients, increase the living alone allowance by €5 a week and the one parent family income threshold by €15 a week.
In addition, the Government increase the working family income threshold by €10 a week, and raise the qualified child payment by €3 for children over the age of 12 and €2 for children under the age of 12.
In keeping with widespread reports in recent weeks, no across the board rises such as the now almost traditional €5 increase in the State pension took place.
However, the fuel allowance and warmer homes moves are likely to gain the most political attention, due to opposition calls in recent weeks for the Government to ensure the €6 carbon tax rise does not hurt families and households struggling to pay their existing bills.
Underlining the political reality beneath the changes, Mr Donohoe told the Dáil: “The burden of the increase in carbon tax falls unequally. That is why I am increasing the fuel allowance by €2 per week and I will match this with increases to programmes that help address the causes of fuel poverty.
“I am providing €13m for the warmer homes scheme to provide free energy efficiency upgrades to households deemed to be in or at risk of energy poverty.
“This reduces the energy required to adequately heat a home, thus reducing a household’s exposure to increases in energy costs.”
Irish Examiner Political Correspondent