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When is a cut not a cut? When it’s a saving!

July 12th, 2011 · 2 Comments · Irish Politics, Recession, Social Policy

The Department of Social Protection have announced that the Government today agreed €65 million in savings in the areas of fuel, telephone, gas and electricity allowances. By savings they mean mainly cuts.  The payments are made to many older people, carers and people with disabilities.  Lone parents and those on unemployment payments are also in receipt of fuel allowances.

Fuel allowance is being cut to €20 a week over its 32 week payment period.  (September to April) The Department previously paid more to those living in smokeless coal areas but now believes there is less than a 2%  difference in the cost of smokey and smokeless coal so the lesser payment is now applicable.

The Department have done a deal with Eircom to pay them less for the Telephone allowance but recipients still get the same monetary value.  No other phone providers have been consulted with.

The Household Benefit Gas and Electricity allowances are being cut with the Department not having done any deals with suppliers.  In fact they say that those on social welfare should go and do the deals.  Echoes here of Mary Coughlan eh?

The Electricity allowance is being cut from 2400 units to 1800 per year. The value of the Gas allowance will be cut from from €489 to €393 per annum – the Department of course don’t say cut – they say adjusted.

However the Department say that 21% of those in receipt under use their allowance and that many will continue to be able to carry over units unused from one billing period to the next.

This announcement comes the day after it was announced that Bord Gais and other energy providers will  seek increases in charges by up to 28%

The Minister has stated that

‘Help will also continue to be available for vulnerable people with special or additional heating needs through the Heating Supplement and Exceptional Needs Payment Scheme under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme.”

I look forward to the Department widely advertising this scheme to potential recipients as many are unaware and there remains huge stigma surrounding having to apply to for these payments in Community Welfare offices.

Age Action Ireland have criticised the cuts.

“The €65 million in savings on fuel, phone and electricity and gas payments come at a price, and that price is going to be paid by some of the most vulnerable in our society,” Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said.

The older people’s charity accepted that cuts had to be made in the light of the current economic crisis, but believed that the Government would work to protect those who could least afford to take further hardship. “We are shocked by today’s cuts which directly hit some of the most vulnerable people in society,” Mr Timmins said.

Age Action was particularly concerned at the reduction in gas and electricity units to pensioners, at a cost of €96 per year. This follows news this week that Bord Gais is set to increase electricity prices by more than 10 per cent and will apply for a gas price rise of 20% to 30%.



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