Stanton - fuel poverty related deaths shocking and unacceptable
Sinn Féin's North Belfast MLA Kathy Stanton speaking at the party's Ard Fheis said 'It is shocking and unacceptable that in the north of Ireland the winter deaths of over 1,300 pensioners are linked to temperature.' Ms. Staunton said:
Multiple deprivation, including fuel poverty, requires a multi-faceted solution which combines assessing the occupants of a home and their specific needs along with the physical characteristics and location of the property. Sinn Fein proposes that in the short term geographic fuel poverty programmes should be created to tackle fuel poverty in the worst council areas. These programmes should include examining and using renewable technologies to tackle fuel poverty.
Fuel poverty has a wide-ranging effect on the health, educational and social well-being of individuals and families. Being fuel poor can limit the life choices, opportunities and functions of people. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, under Sinn Féin minister Bairbre de Brún, and she is to be commended for this - has already laid some good groundwork by the goals set in 'Investing for Health' and the specific regard which it has to fuel poverty.
It is shocking and unacceptable that in the north of Ireland the winter deaths of over 1,300 pensioners are linked to temperature. The latest figures from the House Condition Survey (2001) which show that 203,000, or 33% of households, suffer from fuel poverty are equally shocking and unacceptable. Comparable figures in the south of Ireland and England are 16% and 9% respectively. Child poverty ˆ an area identified in this consultation paper, is particularly acute with 37% of children in low income households. Many of these children can be counted amongst the fuel poor.
These statistics, combined with the figures in Low Income Households published at the end of September 2003 by OFM/DFM and mid-October 2003 by Queen‚s University and the University of Ulster in a joint study on poverty show the huge efforts required to eradicate poverty in our society and the abject failure of many government policies in this area. We have the data, we have the information on levels of poverty, now is the time to take action. In tackling fuel poverty we all have a chance to make a difference to the quality of people‚s lives. We should not squander this opportunity.