Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection and Social Equality, Willie O’Dea TD, says Minister Joan Burton cannot again cut the Fuel Allowance and Household Benefits Package in next month’s budget considering the huge amount of strain being placed on struggling families.

Deputy O’Dea said the 2% price increase granted by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) to Bord Gáis this week, which is the 3rd such increase in 2 years, means the 410,000 families in receipt of the Fuel Allowance and the Households Benefits Package will find it even harder this year to heat their homes.

“Minister Joan Burton cut the Fuel Allowance by 6 weeks in last year’s budget, families now only receive the payment for 26 weeks per year,” said Deputy O’Dea.

“The folly of the decision was shown this year when the severe weather conditions in the spring forced the Minster into a climb down by extending the allowance.

“Since taking office this government has allowed an increase of 32% in gas prices while simultaneously cutting the Fuel Allowance and the Household Benefits Package.

“The Minister cannot now seriously be considering cutting these allowances again. The extended cold period last winter and spring resulted in households all over the country spending more on fuel and heat than they had budgeted for. The imminent rise in gas prices and threats to the Fuel Allowance and Household Benefits Packages will send many more families under the poverty line.

“Minster Burton needs to confirm that the Fuel Allowance and Household Benefits Package will be protected in the forthcoming budget.”