Director of National Energy Action Northern Ireland, Pat Austin stated:
“We already know that 22% of households were in fuel poverty before the onset of Covid-19 and that the cold weather always hits the fuel poor hard. In 2017/18 our excess winter deaths soared at 1500. The World Health Organisation (WHO) tells us that one third of these deaths are brought about living in cold damp homes. With the onset of winter, the mixture of reduced incomes, higher energy bills and the risk of contracting Covid-19, these figures have and will continue to undoubtedly increase. We therefore need to draw on every ‘tool in our toolbox’ to support householders through these difficult times.
“Many organisations have key roles to play including the energy industry and we commend the gas industry’s efforts in developing a website as an important step in providing clear advice to householders, especially those who are vulnerable and on gas prepayment meters. 180,000 households in NI rely on gas prepayment meters, which means they need to physically go to a shop to top up their card to credit their meter to receive gas. While many came together to overcome these issues during the Pandemic, it remains a vulnerability and one which needs immediate attention. Also much more needs to be done to improve identification of customers needing support and getting that advice across the doorstep.”
Last month, NEA released their annual Fuel Poverty Monitor which examined the impact that Covid-19 has had on energy consumers. Recommendations from the research include:
- Improving the identification of customers in need, by using all available data.
- Improving the awareness and communication of available assistance.
- Providing support for prepayment energy customers.
- Addressing a hiatus in policy making, and policy programme delivery.
– ENDS –
For further information, contact Ms. Pat Austin, Director, NEA NI.
Tel: 07908 746137 | Email: Pat.Austin@nea.org.uk
Notes to Editor
- The 2016 Northern Ireland House Condition survey showed that 22% of households were living in fuel poverty in Northern Ireland.
- Oil remains the largest type of heating source at 68% of households.
- 55% of households living in fuel poverty had an annual income of less than £10,399.
- Natural gas consumers are encouraged to visit https://naturalgasni.com for advice about how their supplier can support them during this time.
- Individuals can contact the Covid-19 Community Helpline on 0808 802 0020.