Author: Age NI
Published on 14 March 2011 03:00 PM
Anne O’Reilly, Chief Executive of Age NI said: ‘We are disappointed by the Department for Social Development’s new fuel strategy.'
'It contains little in the way of new measures and will have minimal impact on rising fuel poverty levels among those in later life. Excess winter deaths for older people have more than doubled since the launch of the first fuel poverty strategy in 2004 and eight out of ten older people living alone are now fuel poor. A radical change in policy is urgently required if these worrying trends are to be reversed.’
She continued: ‘Some of the measures proposed in the strategy are welcome, but they don’t go far enough. The new brokering powers for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive are a positive move, but in reality the majority of older people are owner occupiers and will not benefit from this measure. Age NI is calling for the introduction of social tariffs, where vulnerable older people receive energy at a discounted rate, such as the case in England, Scotland and Wales. We also welcome the decision to introduce a pilot scheme for boiler replacements, something Age NI has been campaigning for since it’s removal from the Warm Homes Scheme in 2008. However we are concerned by the Department’s announcement that assistance will take the form of a grant, rather than the comprehensive approach taken when boiler replacements were included as part of the Warm Homes Scheme, as this adds another level of bureaucracy to an already complex benefits system for older people.’
Ms O’Reilly added: ‘The significant reduction in capital allocations for the Warm Homes Scheme, from £20million per year to £15million, appears to contradict the commitment in the draft budget that “there must be no reduction in vital programmes which target the most vulnerable households, including revenue and capital programmes to address fuel poverty (Warm Homes).” Age NI appreciates that the Department has committed to protecting the Warm Homes Scheme in terms of outcomes, however we believe that a target of assisting 9,000 households is not an adequate response and will have a minimal impact on fuel poverty levels given that more than 60% of older people are fuel poor.’