Re: Urgent need to release funding for a broader package of support for fuel poor households in Northern Ireland
Over the last number of weeks, National Energy Action (NEA) NI has experienced a significant rise in the number of households seeking emergency support for fuel poverty. We therefore welcomed the launch of the Department for Communities’ ‘Emergency Fuel Payment Scheme’, as support for fuel poor households is needed now more than ever.
However, NEA NI are extremely concerned that the allocation of £2M for the scheme falls significantly short of what is required to mitigate the worst impacts of the ongoing Energy Crisis in Northern Ireland. We don’t believe the scheme is significantly equipped to deal with the current challenges, especially as temperatures start to plummet.
As you will be aware, energy prices have undergone an unprecedented rise during 2021, and this looks set to continue for at least 18 months. The £2million Emergency Fuel Payment scheme aims to help 20,000 households in Northern Ireland, but it is clear to us that there are many more households suffering hardship in fuel poverty.
In 2016 the Northern Ireland House Condition survey found that NI had a fuel poverty rate of 22%. At this time, it was also estimated that there were approximately 43,800 households living in extreme fuel poverty, which means they need to spend over 15% of their total income to heat their homes. This was at a time when oil and gas prices were significantly lower than they are now.
We know that Northern Ireland continues to have amongst the lowest levels of household income across the UK and the highest weekly household expenditure on energy of any UK region. Taken in conjunction with challenging economic conditions as well as the ongoing global pandemic, many families continue to face challenges with meeting their energy costs. These pressures are further amplified by the ongoing energy crisis, which has seen fuel prices soar to record levels.
Unfortunately, this means that many households in Northern Ireland face the prospects of living in cold homes for long periods of time, especially during the winter months. Homes play a crucial role in ensuring the health and well-being of individuals and households, and NEA, the national energy action charity, believes that everyone in Northern Ireland should be entitled to a warm, safe, and healthy home.
Put simply, the cold kills.
Without urgent intervention we are facing a real and severe risk of needless deaths and morbidity along with increased pressure on our healthcare services in the months ahead.
We are calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to allocate funding to support the release of a broader package of support, to protect households in Northern Ireland from fuel poverty at the earliest possible opportunity.
Every day we are contacted by more and more people who desperately need support.
We are asking that members of the Executive approach this matter with the urgency it requires.
Ms. Pat Austin
National Energy Action (NI)