SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley has expressed her concern that the changes to the Affordable Warmth Scheme cannot be implemented in the absence of a Minister.
Ms Bradley has said that fuel poverty is a reality for many households who are forced to choose between heating and eating. She said, Northern Ireland has some of the highest rates of fuel poverty in Western Europe, and without political agreement little is set to change.
The MLA for South Down commented: “It is extremely frustrating that the Department for Communities cannot implement changes to the Affordable Warmth Scheme because there is no Executive/Minister in place to sign off the decision.
“People living in fuel poverty do not have the luxury to wait on political agreement to have their home adequately and affordably heated.
“The changes to the Affordable Warmth Scheme would make a tangible difference to the lives of those living in fuel poverty by increasing the eligibility threshold, as well as the proposal to remove PIP, Attendance Allowance and Carer’s Allowance from the ‘calculation of income’ from the scheme. Though far from a panacea, this would go a long way to heating homes more affordably.
“Quite frankly, it is farcical that when we hear about the abuse of the Renewable Heating Scheme by some of the highest earners, some of our poorest households continue to be forced to choose between heating and eating.”