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Date Posted: Wed, Nov 22 2006, 16:24:38 PST
Author: Sinn Féin Poblachtach - Cork
Subject: 26 County Government ‘leaving pensioners in the cold’

THE 26 County Government has been condemned for its refusal to raise the income levels for social welfare fuel allowances, despite almost 210,000 pensioners being left out in the cold.

Just 16,000 of the Free State’s 225,458 contributory pensioners, or 7%, are eligible for the fuel allowance.

Age Action Ireland is calling for the criteria for fuel allowance to be revised. The organisation has pointed out that, currently, a person is ineligible for the allowance (€14 a week) if they receive the State Contributory pension (€193.30) and earn more than €50.79 extra per week.

The recent increases in gas, electricity, coal and turf mean that people who are refused the allowance can still face huge financial difficulties to pay their fuel bills.

Age Action believes the eligibility conditions should also take into account the quality of housing of applicants, as poor housing can cost more to heat.

“Everyone should be warm this winter, regardless of whether they are rich or poor,” said Eamon Timmins of Age Action. “The fuel allowance is really only a supplement for an inadequate pension, and serves to help people who would otherwise be torn between paying for food or fuel.”

Age Action also wants the current 29-week payment period for the fuel allowance to be extended. In its pre-Budget submission, it urged the 26 County Government to increase the weekly payment from €14 to €25.

While 26 County Social and Family Affairs Minister Seamus Brennan pledged an extra €50 million for fuel allowances in 2007, the Society of St Vincent de Paul says this would need to be trebled in order to help all with their heating costs.

A spokesperson from the MacCurtain/McSwiney Cumann, Sinn Fein Poblachtach, Cork said the Estimates showed the 26 County Government to be “a big spender who cannot deliver real improvements for those who need it. Almost 210,000 of our contributory pensioners are being left out in the cold in yet another example of this Government’s inability to target resources where they are needed, despite spending a fortune of taxpayers’ money.”

www.rsfcork.com

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