NEA NI welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Department for Finance’s consultation on the 2022-25 Draft Budget. In general, NEA believe there is a pressing need to ensure sufficient budgetary resource is committed to tackling the ongoing Energy Crisis and associated Cost of Living Crisis in Northern Ireland.
Over the last number of months, 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’ and the pending ‘Energy Payment Support Scheme’ as support for fuel poor households is needed now more than ever.
However, NEA NI are concerned that the extent of the cost-of-living crisis in Northern Ireland is so deeply damaging that the allocation of funding to these schemes alone falls significantly short of what is required to mitigate the worst impacts and prevent households from falling deeper into fuel poverty. Whilst we welcome the payments and agree that they will prove to be a lifeline to many households in Northern Ireland, we believe this can only be considered as a ‘sticking plaster’ approach, with further hardship not far on the horizon.