Féin’s Spokesperson on Poverty, Francie Molloy MLA (Mid-Ulster) has
called for the issue of fuel poverty to be addressed as a matter of
urgency across the board but in particular amongst our elderly
Speaking in the wake of a motion on the in the Assembly yesterday Mr Molloy said:
“It is ironic that a day after the Assembly debated the need to address the issue of fuel poverty that we have the announcement by Firmus Energy that it intends to increase its gas prices by a whopping 35% on October 1st.
“This will impact more harshly on the elderly, cancer sufferers, low-income families and the unemployed.
“In fact, recent research by MacMillian Cancer support showed that patients receiving treatment for cancer are twice as likely to suffer fuel poverty as are those without the disease.
“But fuel poverty across society here is more acute than in the rest of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, because the gas and electricity companies here do not provide a cheaper tariff for cancer patients.
“Neither do they provide a cheaper tariff for those on low-incomes. Again this flies in the face of the experience in Britain and the South, where social tariffs were introduced to compel energy companies to redirect some of their vast profits towards reducing bills for those least able to pay.
“We need to see a similar approach taken here. Recession or not, all the energy companies are still making huge profits and it is unacceptable that they are doing so when fuel poverty in the North is as high as 40%.
“While energy prices are higher here, wages are lower, yet social tariffs have not been introduced.
“The issue of fuel poverty is one that has been persistent for the past number of years and has been exacerbated by increasing cost of living and rising unemployment.
“While the average price for 900 litres of home heating oil is £531.11, the basic rate of state pension is £102. The maths is very easy – it costs pensioners over five week’s pension for one tank of oil.
“The last two winters have been exceptionally severe. If this trend continues there is no doubt that elderly people within our society will die as a result of the cold.
“This issue is not just about the cost of fuel but about the effects that increasing fuel prices have on the entire economy of this region. Increasing fuel costs to manufacturers, retailers and services are also passed on to the consumer. Fuel poverty related illnesses also result in increased cost to our health service and cold related deaths. We need to identify ways to alleviate increasing Energy costs including the demand for the introduction of social tariffs to assist those most vulnerable in our society.CRÍOCH