Published on 02 August 2010 04:30 PM
Age NI welcomes developments for cold weather payments but says ‘more needs to be done’
Age NI welcomes the news of an increase in the number of weather stations announced by the Minister for Social Development, Alex Attwood today. However, while this measure will assist more people during particularly cold spells, it will have a minimal impact on fuel poverty levels for older people overall. Qualifying conditions for the payment offer a short term solution for a limited number of people. If government wants to eradicate fuel poverty, it will have to deliver much more.
Anne O’Reilly, Chief Executive, Age NI said:
‘£25 cold weather payments have been presented as a solution to the fuel poverty dilemma. However, despite an increase in the value of the payment, provisional figures have shown 873 excess winter deaths for older people during the winter of 2008/09, a 60% increase on the previous year. Therefore this short term solution is clearly not addressing the overall problem of fuel poverty.
‘Many of the most vulnerable older people will go unassisted again this winter unless urgent and decisive action is taken. The Minister must introduce more substantial, strategic measures to prevent the needless deaths of our older citizens. An effective fuel poverty strategy would be an ideal way to achieve this. Age NI is concerned that the strategy currently out for consultation contains little in the way of new measures.
‘Fuel poverty is a result of a combination of factors such as energy efficiency, income and energy prices. As such, any fuel poverty strategy must attempt to address all of these factors. Age NI believes that there is an urgent need for Northern Ireland to implement a Social Tariff for fuel costs, already offered in Great Britain and that all funding options should be explored in depth. We also believe that automatic payment of benefits has the potential to positively impact on this issue.’
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Notes to Editors
(i) Age NI is the new charity combining Age Concern NI & Help the Aged in Northern Ireland
(ii) Visit www.ageni.org to find out more about Age NI