Urgent need for action on energy poverty - Claire Kerrane TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has called on the government to take urgent action to address energy poverty in the state.
The call follows the launch of St Vincent de Paul’s (SVP) report Warm, Safe, Connected? today, which warned that levels of energy poverty continue to rise.
These findings follow the publication of last week’s annual Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which showed that levels of poverty and deprivation increased significantly in 2022.
Teachta Kerrane said:
“That energy poverty has continued to rise is seriously concerning and urgent action is needed to address these increases.
“SVP’s report presents a stark picture, and notes that up to 40% of people are in energy poverty in the state.
“They also state that they have received a 40% increase in requests for assistance with energy, and saw almost 230,000 requests for assistance in 2022.
“These findings are echoed in the SILC data published last week, which showed that 7.4% of households are unable to keep their households, more than doubling in comparison to 3.2% in 2021.
“We know that energy poverty affects some groups more than others, such as one parent families, people with a disability, older people and lower-income households.
“For example, the rate of one parent-families reporting being unable to keep their houses warm saw a staggering increase from 7.9% in 2021 to 21.5% in 2022.
“The SILC found that rates of poverty have increased a significant amount in 2022 – with 5.3% of people now living in consistent poverty, up 4% on 2021.
“It is no surprise then, that energy poverty has increased when poverty rates continue to increase. As I have noted before, people will often go without heating in order to make ends meet.
“However, it is disappointing that more is not being done to provide supports to families and workers, particularly in view of these findings on energy poverty and poverty rates more generally.
“In their report, SVP calls for a range of measures to address energy poverty. These include ensuring the adequacy of social welfare rates and the extension of the Fuel Allowance to Working Family Payment (WFP) recipients, who are lower-income working households with children.
“Sinn Féin called for Fuel Allowance eligibility to be extended to WFP recipients, and for the establishment of a Discretionary Fund to assist households with utility debt.
“We also called for increases to social welfare rates in recognition of the cost of living crisis and the effect of rising inflation.
“This ties in with our wider commitment to ensuring social welfare adequacy of rates by reaching a Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL), and through the establishment of a Social Welfare Adequacy Commission, which would advise government on rates ahead of the Budget each year.
“Despite this, the government’s cost of living package included nothing to support households further with eye watering utility costs, and seemingly ignored the very serious threat of energy poverty that many are now facing.
“The cost of living crisis is placing huge pressure on ordinary workers and families, who are struggling to keep on top of their bills. The government must recognise the urgency of this crisis and act quickly to ensure people get much-needed help without delay.”