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Fuel credit is step in the right direction

Can't Heat or Eat rally

Organisers of the Age Sector’s ‘Can’t Heat or Eat’ campaign today welcomed the fuel credit announcement from the Executive as a step in the right direction, but warned that many older people in need of help will not benefit from the measures.

Bill Carson, Chair of Age Sector Platform, commented: “We are pleased to see that some progress has been made since the ‘Can’t Heat or Eat’ rally at Stormont one month ago.  This one off payment of £150 will be welcome news for many pensioners struggling to heat their homes during these winter months.  However, ongoing barriers to benefit uptake will mean that tens of thousands of older people entitled to this payment will not receive a penny of it.”

Mr Carson continued: “Government's own figures demonstrate that as many as 51 per cent of pensioners who are entitled to pension credit, and by extension this new fuel credit, will not receive it.  Our organisations believe that much more work needs to be done to get this money into the pockets of those older people who are entitled to it, which is why we are continuing to call on Government to pay pension credit automatically for 3 months to all pensioners.”

Seamus Lynch, Public Affairs Officer at Help the Aged in Northern Ireland, said: “This payment along with news of price drops in energy bills, will provide some comfort for older households struggling to heat and eat properly this winter.  However energy prices are still significantly higher than this time last year, and more needs to be done to tackle the issue of fuel poverty in the long term, including the introduction of social tariffs to protect the most vulnerable.”

Anne O’Reilly, Chief Executive of Age Concern NI, praised the fast tracking of the legislation needed to process the fuel payments, commenting: “The current crisis facing older people required a decisive response from Government.  The news that this legislation has been fast tracked in order to put money in older people’s pockets shows that where there’s a will, there’s a way.  This fast tracking also demonstrates the way in which a devolved Government can work well for the people it serves.”

Age Sector Platform, Help the Aged and Age Concern NI, will continue to work with the Assembly, Government Departments and other organisations to ensure that the problems facing older people in Northern Ireland are addressed.