SDLP Communities Spokesperson Mark H Durkan has called for improved support for households facing spiralling costs of energy and as well as an updated Fuel Poverty Strategy for the North of Ireland which has not been updated since 2011.
Mr Durkan has been pursuing several proposals to assist those at greatest risk of fuel poverty.
He recently wrote to both the Communities and Economy ministers regarding the development of a Warm Home Discount Scheme.
The initiative, available in England, Scotland and Wales provides up to £140 discount on energy bills for eligible households.
In response, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons stated that due to “disproportionately high additional administrative costs’’ there are no plans to implement a similar scheme for the North of Ireland.
Said the Foyle MLA: “It’s incomprehensible at a time when more and more households are being plunged further into fuel poverty this winter, little action be it in the immediate or long term, has not been taken.
“The issue of fuel poverty is one which affects a much greater percentage of households in Northern Ireland, compared to the rest of the UK.
“However, it would seem that the seriousness of this issue has not been grasped by a series of Communities Ministers or the executive.
“It is inconceivable given the situation in the North that the Fuel Poverty Strategy has not been updated since 2011, when the SDLP held the ministerial portfolio.
“It beggars belief that one of the biggest issues facing people has not been addressed or reviewed in over a decade.
“That is a complete dereliction of duty, bordering on wilful negligence.”
Mr Durkan added: “In December last year, the SDLP launched our Energy Costs Action Plan; a nine point plan which proposed capping profits of energy companies and the introduction of a Warm Home Discount Scheme.
“Yet at a time when other jurisdictions are expanding their existing scheme to allow more people to access support as well as increasing the amount available, it’s difficult to fathom how an equivalent provision hasn’t even been developed here.
“I cannot accept the rationale provided by Minister Lyons that Northern Ireland’s size precludes the introduction of a Warm Home Discount Scheme.
“Our caretaker ministers must do more to tackle the acute need and issue of fuel poverty in our communities.
“The inertia to date is wholly unacceptable.”Tags: