Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection and Social Equality, Willie O’Dea TD, says thousands of families throughout the country are now feeling the full effects of the Government cuts to the Household Benefits Package announced during last December’s budget.

The changes introduced sees the standard household benefits package cut in two areas. The telephone allowance drops to €9.50 per month from €22.58 and the gas and electricity credits will be cut to €35 per month.

“As households begin to receive their gas and electricity bills for the Christmas and New Year period, the full effects of the cuts, which came in at the start of January will hit home,” said Deputy O’Dea.

“While the cruel cuts to Child Benefit, the Respite Care Grant, Maternity Benefit and the Back to School Allowance drew much of the headlines at the time of the budget, the cut to the Household Benefit Package will have a severe effect on thousands of elderly and vulnerable people.

“People will lose up to €157 a year in the cut to the telephone allowance, while the cut to the electricity and gas allowance means recipients will receive €35 a month instead of the previous 150 credits. The key point here is that when prices rose previously the allowance also rose, that has now stopped.

“For many vulnerable people, the only contact they have with family and friends on a regular basis is over the phone, this cut will deprive them of the vital contact. The gas and electricity allowance cut is a particularly underhanded one. Gas disconnections rose from 840 in the final 3 months of 2011 to 1,717 in the first 3 months of 2012. On top of this in October 2012, Bord Gáis was granted a price increase of 8.5%, which has led to thousands of families throughout the country having their gas cut off due to prices increasing by almost 30% in a year.

“The ESB also increased its prices by 6% last year, following on from a 12% increase in 2011. People cannot afford to have their heating and gas on and instead of providing respite for struggling families, the Government has cut their allowance in an underhanded fashion.

“The reality of this Government’s broken promises is now apparent and hitting home for thousands of people throughout the country. They won’t forget it in a hurry.”