Free fuel for the elderly in Dublin but there is a challenge for people to transport the turf or timber to their homes.

Can a better system be put in place to assist elderly people to collect turf and wood issued under the Free Fuel Scheme?

In Dublin, 21,000 people are entitled to the Free Fuel Scheme organised through the Department of Social Welfare. Under this scheme they exchange vouchers for 100 weight of turf or wood a week. 

Once cut from the bog, the turf goes to a central depot from where it goes to centres around Dublin city. It is delivered to 3,000 people who are incapacitated. The rest of those entitled to the scheme must collect their fuel from a depot.

Tony McHenry of McHenry Brothers, operates the depots and distributes 220-250 tonnes of turf per day to depots around the city. The weather has an effect on supply and demand.

Where it is quite mild, people don't come collecting it, then you get a cold spell and there’s a rush on it and ten there’s pandemonium because the depot is running short of turf.

One elderly woman pushes a pram for a mile and a half from her home in Saint Teresa's Gardens in Dolphin’s Barn to collect her turf in the Liberties. Neighbours help carry the turf up the stairs to her flat.

Social worker Margaret Horan acknowledges the present system is difficult for the elderly people as they have problems transporting fuel and live in accommodation where they can only store small amounts of turf at a time.

Voluntary organisations could assist with collecting the fuel on behalf of the elderly but she thinks it would be better organised at a parish level. Elderly people are wary of having strangers come to their homes and there have been cases reported where they are being blackmailed by children who collect the turf for them and then demand payment. 

The elderly need to be confident people are genuine.

They have to be people who they feel they can give their money to, who will buy the coal or turf and will bring it back to them.

This episode of 'Tangents' was broadcast on 15 February 1974. The reporter is John O'Donoghue.