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“More financial help needed for those struggling with energy costs” says Commissioner for Older People.

11 January, 2022
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The Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch, has reiterated his call for the NI Executive to provide more financial support for those most at risk of fuel poverty this winter.

Eddie Lynch said “We are now in the heart of winter and the impact of the huge energy price rises is starting to hit people hard.

“I am deeply concerned about the impact this will have on tens of thousands of older people on low incomes who will be sitting in cold homes because they can’t afford to meet their energy bills.   It is estimated that a fifth (21.5%) of excess winter deaths are attributed to cold housing[1]

“The recent Emergency Fuel Payment Scheme announced by the Department for Communities is welcome but falls far short of providing the level of assistance older people will need to get through this winter.  The scheme is said to benefit 20,000 households in Northern Ireland, but we know that alone there are over 50,000 pensioners living in relative poverty.[2]

 

“If we don’t see significant extra payments to those most in need in the coming weeks, I fear that many more people will succumb to the winter this year.  This really is a matter of life and death for many, many people, particularly those who are old and vulnerable.”

Eddie Lynch continued, “For many months I have been pressing government ministers and the main political parties to take strong, decisive action to tackle the fuel crisis we find ourselves in.  The time for talking is over, we need action from the NI Executive to help those most at risk of fuel poverty and we need a scheme that directly puts extra money in the pockets of those who need help to live in a safe and warm home.”

The Commissioner went on to say that such a financial payment would also help support our struggling health service at this time.

“An extra heating payment should not just be viewed as an energy support, but as an investment in our health service at a time when it is under huge pressure.  The last thing our hospitals need is many more older people in their emergency departments in the coming months as a result of cold related illnesses.

“I believe, if adequate funding is not provided to support energy costs, we will see increased illness, hospitalisations and many excess winter deaths that could have been avoided.”

[1]Marmot Review 2011  the-health-impacts-of-cold-homes-and-fuel-poverty.pdf (instituteofhealthequity.org)

[2] NI Poverty Bulletin 2019-20 (communities-ni.gov.uk) page 3