From Declan Breathnach, TD  24th May 2016

324. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection to permit older persons who accommodate immediate family members who would otherwise be homeless to retain the household benefits package given the current housing emergency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11712/16]

From Minister Leo Varadkar Department of Department of Social Protection

The household benefits package (HHB) comprises the electricity or gas allowance, and the free television licence. The package is generally available to people living in the State, aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of a social welfare type payment or who satisfy a means test. The package is also available to carers and people with disabilities under the age of 66 who are in receipt of certain welfare type payments. Widows and widowers aged from 60 to 65 whose late spouses had been in receipt of the household benefits package retain that entitlement. Therefore anyone aged under 70 years of age must be in receipt of a qualifying payment from the Department or satisfy a means test in order to qualify for HHB. They must also satisfy the household composition test meaning they must live alone or only with certain excepted people, who are:

– A qualified adult (a spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is considered a qualified adult if a person is receiving an allowance for him/her with their payment, or would be receiving a payment for them but for the fact that they are in receipt of a payment in their own right);

– Dependent children 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 a State pension);

– A person who is providing the claimant or someone in their household with constant care and attention, if they are so incapacitated as to require constant care and attention for at least 12 months (medical certification may be required).

Any decision to change the qualifying conditions for receipt of HHB would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.