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Cocooned over-70s to get extra fuel grant, postal help

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Willie O'Dea. Picture: Collins

Willie O'Dea. Picture: Collins

Willie O'Dea. Picture: Collins

The fuel allowance payment is being extended for four weeks to protect older and vulnerable people asked to cocoon during the lockdown.

Ministers have signed off on an extension to the payment beyond the April 10 cut-off day.

The allowance will now be available until the second week of May.

In normal circumstances, the €24.50 a week payment is claimed for 28 weeks from September to April each year.

The move follows calls from the Opposition for the payment to be extended due to the global health crisis.

Fianna Fáil's social protection spokesperson Willie O'Dea said older and vulnerable people who had been asked to cocoon were "fearful" that they would be unable to meet additional heating costs.

The fuel allowance is available to anyone in receipt of long-term welfare payments. Those on State pensions, jobseeker's allowance or disability payments will be able to avail of the extension.

Extending the benefit comes as an army of 4,500 postal workers are set to check in on cocooning pensioners across the country this week to ensure they have food, medicine and someone to talk to.

They will pay particular attention to those living alone or in isolated areas and put them in touch with Alone support services.

An Post is also set to launch a newspaper delivery service this week for those who cannot get to the shops, and will collect mail from the elderly for free.

A spokesperson for An Post said they can put a sign in their window that says 'I have mail' and the postal delivery staff will collect it en route.

Peter Kavanagh of Active Retirement Ireland said loneliness is beginning to creep in for pensioners in broadband blackspots who cannot Skype friends and family.

He said delays in online shopping deliveries are also taking their toll and called on the big supermarket chains to prioritise deliveries to older people.

Those in need of support can contact the Alone helpline on 0818 222 024.

Irish Independent