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Warm Homes Scheme - Audit report highlights lack of progress in tackling fuel poverty

23 June, 2008

Sinn Féin MLA Paul Maskey, who is Chair of the Assembly Public Accounts Committee has welcomed the Audit Office report on the Warm Homes: Tackling Fuel Poverty.

Mr Maskey said:

"Since 2001 £98 million has been spent improving heating and insulation in 60,000 homes, yet despite this 34% (225,000) of homes here remain in fuel poverty. The recent fuel price increases mean that more people will fall into the fuel poverty trap."

The report examines the contribution made by Department Social Development's Warm Home Scheme in meeting its objective of eliminating fuel poverty by 2010.

Since 2001 DSD has spent £98 million to improve heating and insulation in 60,000 homes. It was estimated in 2006, that 34% (225,000) of homes in the North remain in fuel poverty.

Mr Maskey said:

"In May 2008 DSD set up a Fuel Poverty Task Force to consider how fuel poverty can be addressed in the short term, but in my view this is not good enough. The department has spent £98 million in the last 7 years but has failed to make any meaningful impact on fuel poverty.

"There are too many people falling into the fuel poverty trap for the department not to have the solutions or the mechanism to address this.

The PAC Chairperson added:

"In 2006-2007 30% of awards were issued to energy efficiency households that were at little risk of fuel poverty. There was also limited availability of the most effective measures like the installation of central systems except for those over 60.

"The report has raised a number of other issues which the PAC will undoubtedly wish to pursue, particularly the large numbers of people in fuel poverty who are excluded from the scheme. People on low incomes but living in fuel poverty - the working fuel poor - and those who do not claim benefits such as pension credit were estimated to be 27% of the total fuel poor in 2004. These people are excluded from the Warm Homes Scheme.

"The Department of Social Development must act now to address these issues. We need to do more to tackle fuel poverty and we must make sure that the significant money going into the Warm Homes Scheme is well spent and makes a difference. This requires a long-term strategic approach." ENDS

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