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Rising Coal Prices will hit those least able to pay hardest

28 August, 2007

Sinn Féin anti-poverty Spokesperson, West Tyrone MLA Claire McGill has said that an increase of up to five per cent in coal prices is a blow to coal users with an average rise of 40p for a bag of household coal and 35p for a bag of smokeless coal.

Ms McGill said:

"While fewer people are using coal to heat their homes the reality is that it is still an important fuel source here and many of those using coal are among the poorest in our society.

"Fuel poverty is a huge problem right across Ireland. It affects 1 in 3 people here, yet the current approach to fuel poverty is not working, the targets are just too low. Hundreds of older people die each year as a result of the cold - deaths that are avoidable.

"The fact is that older people are much more likely to be living in fuel poverty, recent figures show that some 39% of people aged between 60 and 74 and 42% of those aged 75 and over are more likely to be suffering fuel poverty than younger age groups.

"Older people are also more likely to live in older houses which are less likely to be energy efficient. Recent Housing Executive House surveys show that a large proportion of older people are living in accommodation that is in an unfit state of repair or below the Decent Homes Standard.

"The rising cost of coal, oil, gas and electricity leave many older people on low and fixed incomes at risk of fuel poverty. At every twist and turn the approach to eradicating fuel poverty is minimal and disjointed.

"Keeping your home warm and comfortable should not become a luxury it should be right. People should not be faced with the unenviable choice of deciding whether to heat their homes or put food on the table.

"There must also be proper guidelines put in place to stop the disparity in the cost of fuel or electricity bills by those who pay via the direct debit system and those that don't. Currently most costumers who use the direct debit system will get a reduction in their energy bills. This will lead to a widening of the fuel poverty gap for those who can and can't afford to use the system or those who, for example, do not have a bank account and clearly that is wrong." ENDS

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