Belfast Telegraph

Don't let elderly freeze

Pensioners forum calls for heating costs help

By Claire McNeilly

Four out of five older people across Northern Ireland are desperately worried about being able to keep warm in winter, shocking statistics show.

That is why the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament is asking the Executive to provide the urgent help they need by using extra funds promised by the Treasury last December.

The clarion call comes from Age Sector Platform, the charity responsible for the Pensioners Parliament, today as it launches the Parliament for a fourth consecutive year in Belfast. One of the measures that could help is a winter fuel payment similar to a one-off £100 sum handed out to the elderly and vulnerable in 2012. Michael Monaghan, chair of the NI Pensioners Parliament, said around 100,000 pensioners in Northern Ireland benefited from that £100.

"There is a scheme called 'Warmer Homes Discount' in the rest of the UK where the same vulnerable groups get a grant of £130 from the energy companies, but that was never extended to Northern Ireland," he said.

"We have campaigned to have a one-off payment given to people on pensioner credit."

The Pensioners Parliament has said it hopes Stormont can help the elderly by using the £136m funding boost it has been given by Westminster to fund public services over the next two years.

Following the launch of Belfast Pensioners Parliament, a number of 'local parliaments' are due to take place in the coming weeks and will be held in Enniskillen, Newry, Craigavon, Larne, Magherafelt and Omagh.

Pensioners wishing to attend any of the upcoming parliaments should contact Age Sector Platform on 028 9031 2089 or email info@agesectorplatform.org.

BACKGROUND

The Northern Ireland Executive has been promised a funding boost of £136m from Westminster to fund public services over the next two years. Much of the extra money from the Treasury is pledged because health and education services, which cover the major part of Northern Ireland spending, are protected from cuts affecting Whitehall departments. However, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers warned the economy was not as robust as in the rest of the UK.

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