Social Tariffs need to be introduced by Energy companies to help vulnerable
Sinn Féin MLA and chair of the Finance and Personnel Committee, Jennifer McCann has called on energy companies to provide affordable tariffs for people vulnerable to fuel poverty.
Speaking in the Assembly Ms McCann said:
“Those sectors that are most vulnerable to fuel poverty are the elderly, low income families with children, and in particular lone parent families, many of whom have to work part time due to their need for flexible working hours.
“Fuel Poverty has been responsible for almost 2,000 cold related deaths of the elderly over the past 6 years.
“Some families still can’t afford to heat their homes or switch on their electricity.
“Currently in the North the government are responsible for any payments that assist vulnerable customers with their energy bills, and this is mainly in the form of one-off winter fuel payments to the elderly.
“Customers do not have access to social tariffs from either of the main local household energy suppliers; NIE Energy and Phoenix Gas or from Firmus.
“In the South of Ireland the Government operates a system of free gas and electricity units as part of a ‘Household Benefits Package’. This is available to low-income elderly households, all persons aged over 70, carers and people who have disabilities. The amount of gas and electricity provided free of charge was recently increased.
“We are calling on the Minister for Social Development and the Minister for Enterprise Trade & Investment to enter into negotiations with the energy companies and the Utility regulator to bring forward an affordable Tariff system for vulnerable households.
“Other customers shouldn’t have to pay for such a tariff and it should be the responsibility of the energy companies and large commercial businesses.”