Fuel Poverty Awareness Day 2019

Today, 15 February, marks Fuel poverty Awareness Day 2019. This day is aimed at raising awareness of the definition, prevalence and effects of fuel poverty, and the importance of reducing – or better still – eradicating it from society altogether.

Fuel poverty is defined as when at least 10% of a household’s income budget is used on adequately heating the home. Northern Ireland has the highest rate of fuel poverty in the UK, with 22% of homes estimated to be in fuel poverty. Older people are disproportionately affected and the impact of fuel poverty on this group can be more severe.

Age Sector Platform continues to call for Northern Ireland to be included in the Warm Home Discount Scheme – a scheme which would see over 100,000 eligible older people benefit from receiving a reduction of £140 on their annual energy bill and deliver parity with their peers across the rest of the UK.  

The importance of living in a safe and warm home cannot be underestimated and living in fuel poverty can have implications for physical and mental health of individuals.  Almost two-thirds of older people in Northern Ireland are living in fuel poverty with this figure rising to three-quarters of people over 75s. These figures are unacceptable.

In research conducted by Age Sector Platform in 2015, over half of older people surveyed reported having to cut spending on other essentials such as food, to pay for fuel. Since this time, excess winter deaths have increased by 130% (2015-2018). This means that in 2017/18, 1,500 people died unnecessarily during the winter months, many of whom were older people.  This figure stood at 640 in 2015/16.

The inclusion of Northern Ireland in the Warm Home Discount scheme would contribute to a reduction in the level of excess winter deaths, as well as addressing the negative mental, physical and social effects of fuel poverty among older people.

The extension of the Warm Home Discount scheme to Northern Ireland has overwhelming support, with 97% of older people we surveyed supporting its extension to Northern Ireland.

Age Sector Platform will continue to lobby for this on behalf of all older people in Northern Ireland.