By Elaine Loughlin, Political Reporter
There have been calls today for funds to be made available to all families who have been impacted by recent flooding.
More than €235,000 has been so far given to 270 households to help with buying food, clothing and providing emergency accommodation in the wake of the crisis.
Appearing before an Oireachats Committee this afternoon, Helen Faughnan of the Department of Social Protection, which administers the emergency fund, said she expects the amount paid out to increase significantly in the coming weeks as people return to flooded homes.
She said: “The Government has not set a limit on the amount that can be paid to an individual household under this scheme.
“Levels of payment depend on the relative severity of damage experienced and the household’s ability to meet these costs ensuring that the funding is appropriately targeted.”
However, some members of the Education and Social Protection committee criticised the means testing of the scheme.
Fine Gael’s Jim Daly told the Oireachatas Committee: “It’s very hard to explain what it’s like if your home is flooded, it is just the most awful thing to come across to see their belongings, their prized possessions, their photographs everything just destroyed.
“I think when you have a scheme that is titled humanitarian assistance, to means test it afterwards goes against the grain of what it should be.”
The Cork South-West TD was supported by the majority of members at the Education and Social Protection, including senators Marie-Louise O'Donnell and Gerard Craughwell.
However, chair Joanna Tuffy argued against removing the means testing system.
Mr Daly added: “I think it’s cruel, I think it’s wrong and I think we should review that.”
Ms Faughnan said: “The income test for humanitarian assistance is significantly more generous than that which applies in the case of means tested social welfare schemes generally.
“The basic principle of the income test is that individuals and families with average levels of income will qualify for assistance.”