Thomas Pringle TD

Thomas Pringle calls for fuel allowance payments to be extended

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said Covid-19 will affect the numbers of people who experience fuel deprivation this year, and called on Government to extend fuel allowance to people in receipt of Pandemic Unemployment Payments.

Speaking in the Dáil today to support a Private Members’ motion on household utility bill supports, Deputy Pringle said almost 500,000 people are in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).

“This pandemic has wreaked havoc on employment,” he said.

Fuel poverty was a problem before the pandemic struck, the deputy said. He referred to a study compiled five years ago by Unite the Union that examined fuel poverty on a county-by-county basis.

Deputy Pringle said at that time, more than 700,000 people across the Republic – including 30,700 people in Donegal – said they had to go without heating during the last 12 months due to a lack of money.

Deputy Pringle said: “Donegal was found in this Unite report to have the highest level of fuel deprivation because we also have the lowest levels of household income across the country.” He said in 2019, Social Justice Ireland reported that almost 400,000 people in Ireland experienced fuel deprivation, while Ireland was also among the top five in a Eurostat report for energy price increases.

Not only are more people unemployed, but more people are working from home, leading to higher household costs, he said.

Deputy Pringle said: “The stress, anxiety and uncertainty of the pandemic is not something that we can control, but the Government does hold the purse strings and can take certain measures to help residents across Ireland. It was a long, dark and cold January, and granting the fuel allowance to people in receipt of PUP is one easy step which should be taken immediately.”

The motion would also suspend the requirement that a person who loses their job must be in receipt of a Jobseeker’s payment for over 15 months before they can qualify for the fuel allowance, among other measures.

Deputy Pringle said: “I have often said that I wish this Government wasn’t just reactionary, but that we were proactive.” It’s very important to hear people’s real-life experiences and personal stories, he said.

He said: “Too often policy and legislation is discussed in a vacuum – just looking at costs and figures rather than the quality of life of residents around Ireland.”