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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Fuel poverty is having disproportionate negative effect on the most vulnerable

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has referred 360 households to the Affordable Warmth Scheme annually, a report to councillors has stated.

This is a Department for Communities scheme run in partnership between the local authority and Housing Executive to fund energy efficiency measures such as insulation for low income households.

It is aimed at households that have a total gross annual household income of less than £20,000.

The council also works in partnership with the St Vincent dePaul charity, local oil suppliers and retailers for the purchase of oil stamps to help residents budget fuel costs.

It also distributes ‘Keep Warm’ packs to vulnerable individuals and a heater loan scheme is also available.

A slow cooker initiative is part of an energy efficiency awareness programme. Sixty slow cookers were distributed to vulnerable households during the first lockdown of the Covid pandemic to provide a “more sustainable option” for “shielding” residents.

Mid and East Antrim councillors have been urged to refer residents who need assistance to the local authority’s community health and well-being team.

East Antrim Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has indicated that at least 22 per cent of families in Northern Ireland are affected by fuel poverty.

Power NI has announced a 21.4 per cent increase in electricity prices from January which will see a typical household bill rise by £131 per year.

This week, Firmus energy announced an increase of 19.48%, effective from January 6 for gas customers in the greater Belfast area, impacting around 149,000 domestic customers.

In a statement, Mr Dickson said:

“Fuel poverty naturally hits vulnerable households the hardest, with older people, young and single-parent families, adults with disabilities, and the long-term sick, particularly affected. Fuel poverty then has a knock-on effect on those individual’s physical and mental health.

“This announcement is another massive blow for the people of Northern Ireland who have faced price increase after price increase. This tariff change will mean an extra £2.75 per week will be added on to the average household bill, with crippling effects for the most vulnerable in society

“Ultimately, there is little that we can do here to impact international prices. However, the Department for Communities and the Department for the Economy, can act to help protect consumers.”


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