Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has urged the government to do much more to help people struggling with the cost of energy and warned that people need to see urgent action.
Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:
“Today the government’s Fuel Allowance lump sum is paid out. As is too often the case with this government, this measure is far too limited and is not enough to meet need. People needed to see considerable support from this government to address the huge cost of living crisis which is putting massive pressure on people’s finances.
“Instead of the changes people needed, the government is merely making small tweaks which will do little to help people desperately struggling to pay their bills.
“The Fuel Allowance Scheme is far too limited. The Minister has repeatedly claimed that those not in receipt of the Allowance can get help under the Exceptional Needs Payment, despite the fact that if you are working over 30 hours per week you are excluded. This means in reality that workers are unfairly excluded from this scheme and are shut out from much-needed help with these huge costs.
“Sinn Féin outlined in our cost of living package last month that a number of key measures are needed to protect ordinary people from the rising cost of living.
“One of these core proposals is to extend eligibility for Fuel Allowance. The current criteria is far too limited and means that many people who need support are being let down by this government, including low income workers relying on the Working Family Payment.
“Sinn Féin’s proposals would ensure a further 50,000 households would have access to these much needed supports by extending the Fuel Allowance to those in receipt of the Working Family Payment. We also outlined the need to introduce a discretionary fund of €15m to assist households with energy costs. It is clear that there is an urgent need for this as the Exceptional Needs Payment, which Government continue to point to is not enough. The vast majortity of workers cannot access this support.
“We must ensure that this discretionary fund and any further exceptional needs payments are flexible and accessible in order to meet the needs of people who need help. It is indefensible that people would be excluded due to arbitrary rules such as working too many hours per week. Everyone who needs urgent help must be able to receive it in an accessible and timely way and this must include workers. People will spiral into debt without this support.
“The government must grasp the urgency of the cost of living crisis and do everything possible now to ensure workers and families get the break they need. Dithering and half measures won’t cut it. The time for action is now.”