THE SDLP’s former Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has received confirmation of a moratorium on the Affordable Warmth Scheme as a result of budgeting issues within the Department for Communities.
This scheme delivered by the NI Housing Executive and councils, is designed to tackle fuel poverty by providing funding to low-income households to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
This temporary delay will affect applications since 31 December 2018, including an additional 400 received prior to this date.
Said the Foyle MLA: “This unacceptable delay imposed by DfC on the Affordable Warmth Scheme due to budgeting restrictions must be rectified as a matter of urgency and I have received assurances from NIHE to that affect.
“However, with no timeframe in sight, this response will be cold comfort to the hundreds of households currently waiting for approval.
“Many people who are already frustrated with lengthy delays must now wait until a DfC budgeting resolution before approval to the Affordable Warmth Scheme is granted; never-mind the inevitable wait for subsequent work to be carried out given the ensuing backlog.
“This scheme aimed at tackling fuel poverty within areas of deprivation, had the sole objective of assisting low-income households ergo some of the most vulnerable within our society.
“Given the current juncture it seems likely that many households will go another winter without these energy efficient adaptations.
“I have, however, been told that DfC have given approval for a small number of urgent cases – including applicants over 85, with a disability or serious illness,” added Mr Durkan.
He added: “These budgeting issues afflicting almost every government department cannot stand.
“We need the restoration of our political institutions to ensure that public services, inclusive of grants and funding opportunities, are delivered promptly to everyone who require them.”