The budget’s modest increase in the fuel allowance must be seen in tandem with the energy efficiency measures that SVP called for in our Pre-Budget Submission Investing in What Matters. The €2.50 increase brings the total value of the now €22.50 payment over 20 weeks to €570.
This redress recognises the findings of the SVP commissioned research Minimum Household Energy Need that the fuel allowance’s buying power had reduced significantly due to Government cuts and energy price increases. The research, which showed that investment in improving housing energy efficiency will have a significant monetary and social dividend for households, also found that people dependent on social welfare will continue to require income support, such as the fuel allowance, to keep them out of energy poverty.
Now that we have certainty about the fuel allowance the next big question for me is how Government will spend the €444 million allocated for investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes from 2016 to 2021 announced in the Capital Plan.
Amongst the measures called for by SVP are substantial increases to the retro-fitting budgets for low-income households, a widening of eligibility criteria to meet the needs of tenants in the private rented sector and to pilot innovative schemes to advise and inform “hard-to-reach” groups.
The Capital Plan specifically mentions the “much needed investment to assist people with low incomes who find energy unaffordable and whose wellbeing is negatively affected because of this”. One measure we expect to see in the forthcoming Affordable Energy Strategy is a community health based scheme to identify “hard-to-reach” households who could benefit from energy retrofitting. This approach shows how we can turn policy priorities into practical measures.