Warm Homes Scheme waiting list expected to reach over 8,000 by March
Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MLA Mickey Brady, who recently met with representatives from the Warm Home Schemes at Stormont, has expressed serious concerns at the news that the Warm Homes Scheme waiting list is expected to reach over 8,000 by March 2008.
Mr Brady said:
"It is estimated that there are currently 154,000 fuel-poor households here - with more than 50% fuel-poor households lived in by older people. Unfortunately, the figures show the problem is getting worse.
"The results from the 2006 House Condition Survey, which are out soon, are expected to show that this figure has risen to above 210,000 households. Early indications suggest around 36% of all households in the north are experiencing fuel poverty - a jump of 12% from 2004.
"Five thousand pensioners still on the waiting list will now be moved to the 2008/2009 list and this knock on effect will place even greater strain on a budget that Margaret Ritchie seems intent on slashing. The Warm Homes budget was £15 million last year, with a one-off additional payment of £5 million, making a total budget of £20 million. Yet now Minister Ritchie intends to cut the Warm Homes Budget to £7.5 million.
"In each of the 7 years since its inception Warm Homes has reached its target number of homes and in this year its target of 10,000 was exceed by almost 10%.
"The judgement of any Minister who would put vulnerable old people at risk and the success of the Warm Homes Scheme, particularly in surpassing its targets is questionable. Why are examples of good practice such as this being targeted for cuts by the minister when her department in receiving a budget that is in fact larger than the one DSD received last year?"
Mr Brady also highlighted the work in his Newry and Armagh constituency where insulation work was completed in 750 homes costing £414,127 in 2005/2006 (the latest available figures) and heating systems were completed in 252 homes at a cost of £882,967 over the same time period.
"This constituency has been one of largest beneficiaries of the Warm Homes scheme and these cuts proposed by Margaret Ritchie will have a dreadful impact on our people, particularly the most vulnerable.
"Its time for the minister to stop grandstanding and to stop playing politics and to get down to doing the job she is paid to do. The minister needs to prioritise funding to help those most in need and to cut down on the unacceptable high numbers of our older people who die each winter through cold related illnesses." ENDS