A change in the way fuel allowance is paid to social welfare recipients will enable them to make considerable savings on their heating bills, according to Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey.

Deputy Carey, who is a member of the Oireachtas Social Protection committee that proposed the change, said it had the potential to benefit thousands of Clare families over the coming year.

Under the new regulations, Department of Social Protection customers who receive the fuel allowance will have the option to receive the payment in two lump sum payments this year.

“Up until now, the allowance has been paid on a weekly basis between October and April.  The rate of payment is €22.50 per week which amounts to €585. The option of being able to receive the payment in two lump sums of €292.50 will enable people to buy fuel in bulk, thereby potentially securing discount offers.

“A study carried out by the Department of Social Protection last year showed that the price for a customer buying between 20 and 25 litres of kerosene was 11 per cent more expensive than for those who bought 400 litres. Similarly, people who were in a position to buy several bags of coal could  get them for as much €3 per bag cheaper,” Deputy Carey explained.

Expenditure on the fuel allowance for the current year is estimated at €229 million, benefiting around 376,000 households throughout the country.

As the Rural Social Scheme, Tus, Gateway and Community Employment workers are not paid directly by the Department of Social Protection, the fuel allowance trial option will not apply to them but they will be considered for inclusion if the option is continued.