THE SDLP’s Mark H Durkan has called for tailored support to assist pensioners navigate the cost of living emergency as well as a dedicated service to ensure individuals of pension age are claiming their full benefit entitlements.
Age UK has estimated that over £3 billion of benefits aimed at older people on low incomes goes unclaimed every year across the UK. Mr Durkan stated an action plan must be established to help pensioner households through the current costs crisis.
Saod the Foyle MLA: “I am deeply concerned that older people, already among the most vulnerable demographic within society, are bearing the brunt of the cost of living emergency.
“Meanwhile, the DUP continue to prevent political solutions and financial mitigations to problems facing people.
“The lack of intervention from the executive to date to cushion this impact, is appalling to say the least.
“Just last month we heard Eddie Lynch, Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland express his serious concerns about the genuine crisis facing elderly people many of whom had been left unable to heat their homes due to soaring energy costs.
“In the interim, we’ve seen further electricity price hikes with energy bills predicted to rise by £800 by October 2022.
“Blame doesn’t lie solely at the door of the DUP and their reckless refusal to establish an Executive either.
“The Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey was given ample opportunity to develop support for older people.
“For two years, I personally have called on the Minister to use her powers to increase the rate of Winter Fuel Payment in line with soaring fuel costs.
“Her failure to act, bearing in mind that this payment has not been reviewed in over a decade, shows a flagrant disregard for the desperate situation so many pensioners find themselves in.”
Mr Durkan added: “Everything that can be done must be done to alleviate the pressures on so many people at this time, older people are evidently at risk of bearing the brunt of the cost of living crisis.
“This demographic makes up a significant proportion of the Northern Ireland population, 17% according to the latest Census report.
“This cohort is among society’s most vulnerable, they deserve to be provided with support and dignity in later life.
“Yet the reality remains that pensioners on fixed incomes are forced to scrape together the pennies when bills go up by pounds.
“The government must establish a robust action plan to support pensioners – including an uprate in benefits which is truly reflective of the rise in inflation, a financial aid package and the development of a dedicated service to ensure those of pensionable age are receiving their full entitlements.
“We have a responsibility to do all we can to make sure older people in particular are not missing out on vital additional income and are fully supported.”Tags: