Northern Ireland’s poorest pensioners left out in the cold

Thursday 13 November 2014

Michael-MonaghanThe poorest pensioners here are missing out on much needed help with their energy bills because Northern Ireland was excluded from a valuable fuel poverty scheme set up by UK Government almost four years’ ago, according Age Sector Platform.


The charity claims Northern Ireland’s exclusion from the Warm Home Discount means around 100,000 pensioners here are missing out on £140 towards their electricity bill every year, despite pensioners in England, Scotland and Wales receiving the valuable credit.


As the government consultation on the extension of the scheme closes today, Age Sector Platform is calling for the scheme to be extended to include low income households in Northern Ireland.


Michael Monaghan from Age Sector Platform explains: “The Warm Home Discount was launched in April 2011, and helps over two million low income and vulnerable households in England, Scotland and Wales with their energy costs each year. The scheme is set out in legislation and requires energy suppliers to provide a rebate to all qualifying customers. Despite the fact that Northern Ireland has the highest levels of fuel poverty in the whole of the UK, we have been excluded. The situation is totally indefensible.”


“For the past four years we have been asking older people what their top concerns are through the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament survey. Every year keeping warm in winter has been the biggest worry for pensioners here; with three out of four older people selecting it as a top concern for them.”


“As we approach the coldest time of the year, temperatures fall and concerns rise for many pensioners struggling to make ends meet. A discount of £140 could make a huge difference to poorer pensioner households across the province, for whom the failure to keep warm can often have life or death consequences. Five hundred older people dying each winter in Northern Ireland due to the cold should be a wake-up call for all those in positions of power. More help is clearly needed; and the Warm Home Discount provides an ideal channel through which this help could be provided to the most vulnerable households in Northern Ireland.”


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