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Know Your Rights: Household Benefits Package


I’m in my 70s and live alone. Is it there any support available to help me with my household running costs?

Answer (May 2018)

The Household Benefits Package may help with the costs of running your household. The package is available to everyone aged over 70 and to some people under 70. It is paid by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP).

The package includes an electricity or gas allowance and a Free Television Licence. The electricity or gas allowance pays €35 per month (€1.15 per day) towards the cost of either your electricity or gas supply (you cannot get an allowance for both). It is paid to your bank or post office account or as a credit on your bill. You can get the Free Television Licence from the next renewal date of your licence after you qualify for the package.

Only one person in a household can qualify for the package. You must be living in the State all year round, and you will need to show that you are the registered gas or electricity consumer, for example, by providing a utility bill.

People aged between 66 and 70 may also qualify if they are getting a qualifying payment, such as the State Pension. If they are not getting a qualifying payment, they must satisfy a means test. You qualify if you are getting Carer’s Allowance and providing full-time care to a person you are living with. You may also qualify if you are getting certain social welfare payments and living alone or living with certain people, for example, a qualified adult or child or with someone who would qualify for the allowance in their own right.

To apply, use form HB1 (pdf) from welfare.ie. The form is also available from your local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office or from your nearest Citizens Information Service.

National Slow Down Day

National Slow Down Day takes place over 24 hours from 7 am on Friday 25 May 2018 to 7 am on Saturday 26 May.

Slow Down Day aims to reduce the number of speed-related collisions, save lives and reduce injuries on our roads.

Excessive and inappropriate speed is a major factor in road traffic collisions – so reducing motorists’ speed is essential. Last year saw 157 road fatalities.

The Garda Síochána urges motorists to slow down, obey speed limits and take road conditions into account.

Visit garda.ie for more information. 


Political activity at polling stations

If you are voting tomorrow, remember that political activity is strictly prohibited at polling stations on polling day.

You cannot display or distribute campaign materials, or canvass in any form.

The prohibition also applies in the grounds of the polling station and within 50 metres of the entrance. It will be in effect while polling is open and for half an hour before and afterwards, meaning from 06:30 to 22:30 on Friday, 25 May 2018.

Read more about voting in a referendum.

Renting a car abroad

If you are thinking of renting a car abroad, there are several things to consider.

Before your holiday, check the car rental company’s terms and conditions and make sure you know what they require. Often, you will need an international driving licence and a credit card. You should also check the insurance cover that comes with the car, so you can arrange additional cover if necessary.

When collecting the car, ask about the rental company’s fuel policy, as you may need to return it with a full tank. Check the car’s condition and tell the company about any problems before you drive it away.

When returning the car, try to meet a rep from the rental company, so you can be present when they check the car for fuel and damage. This will help you to avoid any additional charges.

Read more on ccpc.ie.

Know Your Rights: European Health Insurance Card


My partner and I are planning a holiday in Spain. How do we access public healthcare services if one of us becomes ill when abroad?

Answer (April 2018)

You and your partner each need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This card allows you to access public healthcare services if you become ill or get injured when travelling to or visiting certain European countries. It doesn’t cover private treatment or the cost of repatriation to Ireland if required.

The countries covered by the card are the 28 member states of the EU, the three other members of the EEA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) and Switzerland. You don’t need the card for a visit to the UK if you can show that you are ordinarily resident in Ireland. In practice, this means showing a driving licence, passport or similar document.

If you have a smartphone you can download the free EHIC app. This includes emergency phone numbers and information about treatments and costs covered. The app does not replace the card.

If you already have a medical card or Drugs Payment Scheme card, you can apply online for your EHIC at ehic.ie.

Otherwise, you can download an application form from ehic.ie or get one from your Local Health Office. You need to provide your name, address, date of birth and Personal Public Service number (PPS number). You may also need to show proof that you are ordinarily resident in Ireland. If your EHIC has expired you can renew it online at ehic.ie. If your details have changed (for example, your address) you need to contact your Local Health Office to renew the card.

If you have concerns about getting a new or renewed card in time, you can get a Temporary Replacement Certificate, either online or from your Local Health Office. You may also wish to consider taking out private travel insurance for expenses that are not covered by the EHIC (such as the costs of repatriation).

Polling cards and voter identification

If you are registered to vote in the upcoming referendum, a polling card should be sent to your home address before 25 May 2018.

Your polling card will state your elector number and the name of the polling station where you are to vote. It will also have a formal statement explaining what the referendum is about.

If you don’t receive a polling card by 25 May, you can still vote at your local polling station as long as you are registered to vote. You can check this on checktheregister.ie.

You should bring a valid form of personal identification, such as your passport, driving licence, student card with photo etc., when you go to vote. Your polling card is not accepted as a valid form of ID. There is a full list on referendum.ie.

You can read more in our document about voting in a referendum.

There is information about the upcoming referendum on refcom2018.ie.

New technology for cars

Since 31 March 2018, EU law (pdf) provides that all new models of cars being sold must have eCall technology. eCall is a communications system that automatically contacts the emergency services following a road crash anywhere in the EU. Anyone in the car can also make an eCall manually.

When activated, eCall makes a voice call to the emergency number 112. It also transmits data about the incident, such as your exact location and vehicle type. This allows the emergency services to locate you quickly and, if necessary, send an ambulance to help.

Read more about eCall on the website of the European Commission.

Tidy Towns deadline

The Tidy Towns competition is a yearly contest in which participating areas are rated on all aspects of their local environment. It is run by the Department of Rural and Community Development.

The application form (pdf) has detailed information about the different prizes on offer and how to apply. In addition to the main competition, there are special awards for different categories such as sustainable development and community climate action.

The deadline to apply for the 2018 competition is 23 May 2018.

Read more on tidytowns.ie.