\"\"Fuel allowance payments should be increased for the duration of the Arctic weather crisis in order to ensure that the elderly and vulnerable have adequate protection from the freezing conditions, according to Fine Gael T.D. for Cork North West Michael Creed.

“The Arctic conditions gripping the country are particularly difficult for the elderly and those living alone. The loss of the Christmas bonus and reduced social welfare bonus payments for the blind and people with disabilities has already impacted on their ability to buy fuel.

“The fuel allowance of €20 a week is normally available from September to May. However, I believe it should be increased to help the most vulnerable groups to cope with the extreme cold during this crisis.

“Social & Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin should immediately agree a temporary increase in the fuel allowance.

“Meanwhile, large numbers of social welfare recipients face their payments being returned to the Department by An Post if people fail to collect them within four days. This will create a huge logistical difficulty as people will have to re-apply to an already over-run Department to get the payments re-issued. It would make far more sense for the Minister to temporarily, for the duration of this weather, allow the payments to be collected until the crisis is over.”