Belfast Telegraph

Fewer households in fuel poverty

The number of households in fuel poverty in Northern Ireland has fallen because of better energy efficiency, figures have shown.

Almost 14,000 more families are able to properly heat their homes following public investment in heating, insulation and double glazing, the Department for Social Development said.

The proportion of those struggling to cope has reduced from 44% in 2009 to 42% last year.

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland said energy-saving measures were having a positive impact. However, the National Energy Action charity campaign group said the government should not be complacent.

Northern Ireland director Pat Austin said: "It is still outrageous that in the 21st century, 42% of households in Northern Ireland cannot afford to heat their homes."

She added: "We call on the Northern Ireland Executive to redouble its efforts if this marginal reduction in fuel poverty is to lead to a meaningful reduction in fuel poverty."

She said a pay-as-you-go mechanism for domestic home heating oil will not be in place until 2014 at the earliest.

"The serious problem of oil must be addressed by government if a lasting solution to fuel poverty is to be achieved," she added. "More work needs to be done to eradicate fuel poverty in Northern Ireland."

Mr McCausland said in the past year £37 million had been invested in heating, insulation and double glazing to improve energy efficiency in homes. He said: "These are investments that have made a real difference to the lives of thousands of people across Northern Ireland."

The minister added over the past year the Executive had allocated funding for a one-off fuel allowance payment to around 250,000 vulnerable people and plans to double glaze 30,000 Housing Executive properties by 2015.

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