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Value Of Fuel Allowance Wiped Out By Increases

Fuel Allowance rates - fuel poverty

With energy bills increasing by over €500 in the past three years the value of the 2013/2014 Winter Fuel Allowance which begins on Monday (7 October) has been effectively wiped out, according to St Vincent de Paul.

Brendan Hennessy of the SVP Social Justice team pointed out that the most recent increase of 2% for natural gas has been subject to justifiable protest. “Of course it’s not the 2% that is the big problem; it’s the cumulative increase over a few short years. Gas prices rose by 22% in 2011, 8.5% in 2012 and 2% in 2013. Along with increases in electricity prices, the latest being a 3.5% increase in household bills announced by Airtricity last week, the cost of energy bills have risen by €500. Basically, within three years the value of the €20pw fuel allowance for 26 weeks is failing to cover energy price rises, leaving households who were already struggling to pay their fuel bills at a loss.” he said.

Mr Hennessy also said that between 2008 and 2011, even before the most recent increases, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul increased its fuel assistance to Irish families from €3.8million a year to €10.4 million annually. The need in Irish Society is now so great that more and more people are approaching SVP because they cannot afford the basics, like the cost of energy. “This is an unsustainable situation for Ireland and an unsustainable cost for the SVP.’ he said.

Over the last year SVP has worked with energy companies to promote the use of Pay As You Go meters. The SVP says that these meters, using similar top-up technology to mobile phones, should be available to electricity and natural gas customers in financial hardship (some exceptions do apply and these need to be addressed such as Day and Night meters). The Society says that Pay As You Go meters can handle arrears and help budgeting. In turn this helps households reduce unnecessary energy use, thus changing our behaviour. And it says repayment or instalment plans if scheduled over reasonable repayment periods are another means of dealing with gas and electricity debt.

“Another measure for reducing household energy bills is retrofitting homes with energy saving and efficiency packages. With some basic investment many homes could be warmer, healthier and cheaper to run, while other homes require deeper retrofitting measures to bring them up to an acceptable level of energy affordability.

“While 250,000 homes have acquired retrofitting measures such as attic and cavity wall insulation, draught proofing and low energy lighting, the Government’s own target of retrofitting 1million homes by 2020 is not going to be achieved. It is the SVP view that low income households with high fuel costs should be prioritised in any capital investment package, as part of the Government’s Warmer Homes / Better Energy Strategy to tackle fuel poverty. SVP’s Pre-Budget Submission for 2014 sets out specific targets for government to make energy more affordable.”

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PLEASE NOTE: This article was originally published on, the website belonging to The Society of St Vincent De Paul here in Ireland. We have republished it with their very kind permission. View the original article here.

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