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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Help available to heat your home this winter

September 17th, 2022 8:00 PM

By Elaine O'Donovan

The total fuel allowance payment over 28 weeks is €924. Alternatively you can choose for it to be paid to you in two lump sums, in September and January. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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What is the fuel allowance?

It’s is a payment to help with the cost of heating your home during the winter months.

You can get it if you are getting a long-term social welfare payment and you are unable to provide for your heating needs from your own resources. Only one Fuel Allowance is paid to a household.

Fuel Allowance is generally paid with your social welfare payment on the same day. You can choose to get it paid weekly or paid in two lump sums. The lump sum option is not available to people getting payments under the Rural Social Scheme, Tús, Gateway, Community Employment or Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

From this September, people getting Jobseekers Allowance or Supplementary Welfare Allowance may qualify for the allowance after 12 months (down from 15 months), if all other qualifying conditions are met.

How do I qualify?

You must be living alone (or with certain people listed below), living in Ireland and getting a payment including the state pension, widows, widower’s or surviving civil partner’s pension; an invalidity payment and a whole other range. Contact your citizens advice for the full list.

You must live alone or only with:

• A dependent spouse, civil partner or cohabitant and/or dependent children

• A person who is getting Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Benefit and is caring for you or for your dependent spouse, partner or cohabitant on a full-time basis

• A person getting short-term Jobseeker’s Allowance or basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance

• Other people who are getting the qualifying payments and who would also be eligible for a Fuel Allowance in their own right.

Why might I not qualify?

• You live with someone who is not getting one of the qualifying payments for the fuel allowance

• Your heating needs are met under a deed transferring property

• You are on a qualifying social insurance payment and have income above the means test limit

• You are getting one of the following social insurance payments: Jobseeker’s Benefit, Illness Benefit, Enhanced Illness Benefit, Occupational Injuries Benefit, Maternity Benefit or Disablement Benefit. Note that you do not qualify for Fuel Allowance if you are getting any of these payments with a qualifying payment, for example, a half-rate Maternity Benefit with a One-Parent Family Payment.

How is my income assessed for the payment?

It’s a means-tested payment. In a means test, the Department of Social Protection (DSP) examines all your sources of income. Your gross weekly income must be below a certain amount to pass the means test.  You are usually accepted as passing the means test, if you are already getting a qualifying social assistance payment.

The amount of means that you are allowed to have for the allowance is the current maximum rate of State Pension (Contributory) including any increases that you might get for your age, living alone and dependants, plus €120.  If you are over 80, add an extra €10 to the appropriate DSP payment rate.

What is the rate?

If you choose to receive the payment on a weekly basis, the allowance is paid from the end of September to April each year for 28 weeks at a rate of €33 per week. The total payment over 28 weeks is €924.  Alternatively you can choose for it to be paid to you in two lump sums, in September and January. To get your allowance paid in two lump sums, fill in the Change the Payment Frequency form at least one month before the first lump sum is due.

How does you apply?

Applying for the first time you need to fill in application form NFS 1 which you can get from your local Citizens Information Centre or have it posted out to you.  Be aware that if you apply for the Fuel Allowance after the start of the Fuel Allowance season, it will not be backdated.  You do not need to reapply for the Fuel Allowance each year as long as, your circumstances remain the same and you continue to get the same social welfare payment.

The allowance will be included in your weekly payment, if you are getting a social welfare payment.  If you are not getting a social welfare payment, your Fuel Allowance can be paid directly into your account in a financial institution or you can collect the allowance at your local post office.

What happens if more than one person in a household qualifies for the fuel allowance?

Only one allowance payment is paid to a household. If two or more people who would qualify for a Fuel Allowance live together, only one Fuel Allowance is paid to one person in that household.

If everyone in the household is getting a social assistance payment, they can decide who applies for Fuel Allowance.  If one household member is on a social insurance payment then they should apply in the first instance.

Where do I apply for the allowance?

This depends on what social welfare payment you are getting.  You should complete and return the form to the section that pays your main social welfare payment. If unsure, please contact your local Citizens Information Centre for assistance.

For further information call a member of the local Citizens Information Service in West Cork on 0818 07 8390. They will be happy to assist you and if necessary arrange an appointment for you. The offices are staffed from 10am-5pm from Monday to Thursday and on Friday from 10am-4pm.

Alternatively you can email [email protected] or log on to www.citizensinformation.ie

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