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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

MEA Council see “marked increase” in demand for heaters as households struggle with rising costs

Fifty-five households have had to borrow heaters from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council as a result of fuel poverty, elected representatives have been told.

The council’s Direct Services Committee heard that the local authority received funding from the Public Health Agency to purchase 60 energy efficient heaters to lend to households that are without heat and are struggling financially.

Councillors heard that last winter demand was “moderate but steady” but this year, there has been a “marked increase” in demand with the majority of heaters on long-term loan.

Council staff have been assessing low income households to enable them to access grant funding to replace ineffective heating systems and upgrade home insulation. Eligible households are referred to the Housing Executive which carried out a home assessment.

Councillors have agreed that officers should write to the chief executive of the Housing Executive to ask for a priority approach to allow “fast tracking” of referrals to clear the current backlog and ensure priority cases are prioritised in a timely manner.

Deputy Mayor TUV Councillor Matthew Armstrong described the figures as “deeply shocking” adding that it is “something that should not be required in this day and age”.

Knockagh DUP Councillor Marc Collins commented:

“It is disappointing to see yet another scheme where low income working households will miss out again. I would ask for that to be included.”

Party colleague Councillor Cheryl Johnston added:

“The breadline is getting thinner and thinner. Things are getting extremely tight. This is something that needs to be looked at.”

Meanwhile, councillors were told that a “social supermarket” is to be established in the borough which is likely to be open to those receiving welfare payments and tax credits.

Five social supermarkets funded by DfC opened in Northern Ireland in 2018 with food supplied by the Fareshare charity, an organisation which distributes surplus food from supermarkets, suppliers and manufacturers to charities.


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