First Minister the Rt. Hon Peter D. Robinson, MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, MP, MLA have announced that more than 250,000 people here will benefit from a one-off Executive funded fuel allowance payment this winter.
Funded under the Social Protection Fund, which was established by the Executive in March 2011 to mitigate against the impact of the harsh economic climate on the most vulnerable in society, the initiative will support older people, cancer sufferers and individuals receiving a number of income based benefits.
- A £100 payment will be made to those in receipt of Pension Credit;
- A £100 payment will be made tor those receiving cancer treatment;
- A £75 payment will be paid to those in receipt of Income Support;
- A £75 payment will be made to those in receipt of Employment Support Allowance income related;
- A £75 payment will be made to those in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance income based
There is no application process – payments will be automatically issued to those who are eligible.
Payments are expected to total around £23million and the initiative will be discussed at this afternoon’s Executive meeting.
The First Minister said: “The delivery of a fuel poverty initiative this year was identified by the Executive as one of our most pressing issues due to the impact of increased household energy costs, that affect us all, but particularly those who are most likely already experiencing significant levels of fuel poverty.
“Those who are struggling to keep their homes warm this winter will draw comfort from this decision, which will help alleviate the financial burden on some of our most vulnerable citizens – low income families, pensioners and those who are being treated for cancer.”
The deputy First Minister said: “This additional one-off payment towards household fuel costs will be universally welcomed by those who are suffering most in these challenging financial times. Fuel poverty is very real in our society and the introduction and supporting of a range of initiatives aimed at reducing fuel poverty, is a key element of the draft Programme for Government.
“Those on low income are often unable to afford even the most basic necessities and this can have a detrimental effect on entire families. Today’s announcement will undoubtedly make life that little bit easier for these people.”
Claire Keatinge, Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland: “Keeping warm and keeping well in the winter is really important for the health and well-being of older people. Too many older people find it hard to manage on their income, and find the rising cost of fuel a real problem.
“Today's announcement of additional financial support to help older people meet costs of fuel is very welcome indeed. The Northern Ireland Executive has made a strong and positive contribution to assisting older people this winter.
“As Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland I am pleased to see this additional payment to help older people keep warm and keep well.”
Payment recipients will be determined by a ‘qualifying week’ in December 2011 and payments are expected to be issued in February 2012.
Further details will be announced in the coming days.