If you satisfy a number of conditions, you may qualify for the Household Benefits Package. This is a package of 3 allowances which help you with the costs of running your household. You must be living in the State. Only one person in a household can qualify for the package at any time.
There are various commercial websites that allow you to compare energy prices. The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) accredits cost comparison websites if they meet certain standards. You can check accredited websites on energycustomers.ie.
There are frequently asked questions on changes to the Household Benefits Package in 2013 on welfare.ie.
It was announced in Budget 2014 that from 1 January 2014 the Telephone Allowance will be discontinued for existing and new recipients. The value of the allowance is €9.50 per month per household. The Free TV Licence and Electricity Allowance or Gas Allowance paid under the Household Benefits Package will continue to be paid with no changes to rates.
In 2014 the annual payment to RTÉ for the Free TV Licence will reduce by €5 million to €54.17 million. This will not affect recipients who will continue to get a free TV licence.
Read FAQs about this change on welfare.ie.
There are three allowances in the Household Benefits Package:
- The Electricity Allowance or
- Natural Gas Allowance or
- Cash Electricity Allowance or
- Cash Gas Allowance
- The Telephone Allowance (discontinued from 1 January 2014)
- The Free Television Licence
Allowance 1: Electricity/Gas Allowance
If you have an electricity or natural gas supply, you must choose either the Electricity Allowance or the Natural Gas Allowance.
The Electricity Allowance has been adjusted from a unit-based allowance to a cash credit each month effective from 1 January 2013. This change will be automatically applied to your bill if you are an Electric Ireland customer. This will be shown as €35 per month credit on your Electric Ireland bill.
Electric Ireland customers
Following approval of your application for an Electricity Allowance, the Department notifies Electric Ireland, who will apply the allowance, including any backdated credit, on your next or subsequent bill. The allowance is paid directly to Electric Ireland. You must pay in the normal way for any electricity you use above the allowance.
Other electricity providers
If your electricity provider is not Electric Ireland, your Electricity Allowance is paid directly to you to use towards your electricity bill. In this case, the allowance can be paid into your bank account or at your local post office.
If you are already getting an Electricity Allowance and change your electricity provider, you do not need to reapply. Your Electricity Allowance will continue to be paid – either as a credit to your bill with Electric Ireland or as a cash payment with other suppliers.
Cash Electricity Allowance
You may qualify for a monthly Cash Electricity Allowance of €35.00 if you are living in self-contained accommodation (a flat or apartment), and:
•You have your own electricity slot meter
•There are a number of separate electricity meters operating from one meter from an electricity provider and the registered consumer of electricity is a landlord
•There are no separate meters, but the registered consumer of electricity at your address is a landlord.
The Cash Electricity Allowance is paid on the first Tuesday of each month to an account in a financial institution, for example, a bank or, if you have a social welfare services card, through your local post office. (Note that if you are being paid through a post office, using a social welfare services card, you have 56 days to collect your payment.)
Natural Gas Allowance
Depending on your supplier the Natural Gas Allowance of €35.00 can be paid as a cash credit on your gas bill or on the first Tuesday of each month to an account in a financial institution or a post office.
The Allowance does not cover the cost of installing a natural gas supply to your home.
If the Allowance is paid as a credit on your gas bill, the Department notifies your gas provider, who will apply the allowance, including any backdated credit, on your second gas bill after that date.
Cash Gas Allowance
If your home is not connected to an electricity or natural gas supply but you satisfy the conditions of the scheme, you can get the Cash Gas Allowance of €35.
You can also claim a Cash Gas Allowance if you use gas which is not delivered through the national grid. For example, in some areas a gas tank may provide gas to a number of individually-metred households. The Cash Gas Allowance is paid on the first Tuesday of each month to an account in a financial institution or a post office.
Carry forward of gas or electricity units
If you had unused units or credits on your last bill in 2012, you can continue to use these saved units/credits until 30 September 2013 (after your new monthly allowance of €35 has been used). Note that your monthly allowance of €35 can be carried forward without restriction and can be drawn down at any stage, including if you wish to switch to a different energy provider.
Allowance 2: Telephone Allowance (discontinued from 1 January 2014)
The Telephone Allowance is a payment towards your mobile phone or landline phone bill. You can get only one Telephone Allowance per household which can be used for either a mobile phone or landline but not both.
Landline phone: if you use the Telephone Allowance for your landline phone, it is generally paid as a credit on your phone bill. However if your telephone supplier cannot facilitate this it can be paid as cash to an account in a financial institution or a post office. The telephone account must be in your own or joint names. If this is not the case, you should contact your supplier to have the name changed. If your house is divided into flats or apartments, you can only qualify for a Telephone Allowance if the telephone is registered in your name and is located in your private flat/apartment.
Mobile phone: if you use the Telephone Allowance for your mobile phone, you can use it to pay your mobile phone bill or to buy credit for your phone. It is paid as cash to your account in a financial institution or through a post office.
The Telephone Allowance does not cover the installation charge for the telephone.
People aged 70 or over living in nursing homes who have their own telephone account or mobile phone may also qualify.
Allowance 3: Free Television Licence
Once you qualify for the Household Benefits Package, you become eligible for a Free Television Licence from the next renewal date of your television licence.
When you qualify for the Household Benefits Package, the Department issues you with a TV licence, and also notifies An Post of your entitlement to a free licence for as long as you are entitled to the Household Benefits Package.
You may qualify for the Household Benefits Package if:
You are aged 70 or over
You are getting full-time Carer's Allowance (if you are living with the person you are caring for)
You are caring for a person who is receiving Prescribed Relative's Allowance or Constant Attendance Allowance
You are between 66 and 70 and are receiving
and live alone or only with certain excepted persons - see 'Excepted persons' below.
You are under 66 and are receiving:
- Disability Allowance
- Invalidity Pension
- Blind Pension
- Incapacity Supplement or Workmen's Compensation with Disablement Pension (for at least 12 months)
- An equivalent Social Security Pension/Benefit from a country covered by EU Regulations, or from a country with which Ireland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement
and live alone or only with certain excepted persons.
You are aged between 66 and 70, satisfy a means test and live alone or only with the excepted persons mentioned below.
Excepted persons are:
- A qualified adult (your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is considered a qualified adult if you are receiving an allowance for him/her with your payment or if he or she earns less than €310, including income from a social welfare payment)
- Dependent child(ren) under the age of 18 or under the age of 22 if in full-time education (a certificate from the school/college must be supplied for those aged 18 or over)
- A person who is so incapacitated as to require constant care and attention for at least 12 months (medical certification may be required)
- A person(s) who would qualify for the allowance in his/her own right (for example, a person getting an State Pension)
- A person who is providing you or someone in your household with constant care and attention if you or that person is so incapacitated as to require constant care and attention for at least 12 months (medical certification may be required). People in employment for more than 15 hours per week or people getting Jobseeker's Benefit/Jobseeker's Allowance cannot be accepted as providing constant full-time care and attention.
Other qualifying conditions
- You must be permanently living (that is on an all-year-round basis) at the address at which you wish the allowances to be applied. The allowances do not apply if you live in a nursing/retirement home where the accommodation is not fully self-contained. However, if you are aged 70 or over and live in such a nursing/retirement home and you have your own telephone account, you may be eligible for the Telephone Allowance
- No other person in your household can be receiving the allowances.
- You must be the registered consumer of electricity/gas if you are applying for an Electricity/Natural Gas Allowance and the registered telephone account holder if you are applying for the Telephone Allowance.
Illness and hospital stays
You are considered to be living at your permanent address while you are having medical treatment in hospital provided your hospital stay is less than 13 consecutive weeks.
Concession for widowed people or surviving civil partners aged between 60 and 65
If you are widowed or a surviving civil partner aged between 60 and 65 and your late spouse or civil partner was getting any Household Benefit allowance from the Department of Social Protection and, prior to his/her death, you were permanently living together, you may now qualify for the allowances in the Household Benefits Package.
You must be getting:
- State Pension (Transition)
- Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) or (Non-Contributory) Pension
- One-Parent Family Payment (Widows/Widowers)
- Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's Pension under the Occupational Injuries Benefits Scheme
- An equivalent Social Security Pension/Benefit from a country covered by EU Regulations or from a country with which Ireland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement
- An ordinary Garda Widow's Pension from the Department of Justice and Equality .
You may be required to produce documentary evidence proving that your late spouse or civil partner was receiving an allowance under the Household Benefits Scheme.
Concession for people transferring from Invalidity Pension, Disability Allowance or Blind Pension
If you are receiving Invalidity Pension, Disability Allowance or Blind Pension and you are receiving any Household Benefit allowance you may retain the Allowance if you transfer to another payment from the Department of Social Protection (excluding Jobseeker's Benefit/Allowance, Illness Benefit and Pre-Retirement Allowance, One-Parent Family Payment and Carer's Benefit).
The means test
If you are aged between 66 and 70 and are not receiving a qualifying payment, you must satisfy a means test.
The means test involves calculating your appropriate weekly means limit. This limit is based on the current maximum rate of State Pension (Contributory) including increases for age, living alone, and adult/child dependants.
Your weekly income limit consists of the maximum rate of State Pension (Contributory) plus €100.
Your weekly income limit is then compared to your weekly means as assessed in a means test.
If your weekly means are less than or equal to your weekly income limit, you satisfy the means test and qualify for the Household Benefits Package.
If you are applying for the Household Benefits Package on the basis of the means test, a separate means test questionnaire will be posted to you for completion.
If you change address
If you change address and you still satisfy the conditions for the Household Benefits Package, you must re-apply for the allowances.