Belfast Telegraph

Fuel allowance 'cuts' criticised

The Government`s Winter Fuel Allowance "cuts" have left most pensioners struggling to pay for energy as the cold weather bites, it was claimed.

Hard-pressed elderly householders find it difficult to make ends meet as frigid conditions persist in Northern Ireland, Age Sector Platform claimed, calling for an emergency payment.

The organisation campaigns on behalf of 200,000 older people, many of whom suffered power failures or were unable to leave their properties or access medication due to fierce snowstorms in the region.

Its energy spokesman Francis Hughes said: "It is clear that older people are being hit hardest by the rising cost of energy and the reduction to their incomes.

"We hope that this current cold snap acts as a much-needed prompt for our Executive (Stormont ministers) to take action to prevent even more deaths this winter."

Thousands of people lost electricity and some were trapped indoors by recent blizzard conditions.

Mr Hughes said: "Ever since the Winter Fuel Allowance was cut by the coalition Government in 2011, the vast majority of pensioners have been struggling to make ends meet when it comes to their energy bills.

"Losing between £50 and £100 was quite a blow to many, especially when considering the high cost of energy here."

Those aged over 80 before the cut received a £400 allowance, reduced to £300. Those aged between 60 and 80 received £250, revised to £200. The money is transferred to Northern Ireland by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Treasury has argued that the Government did not cut anything but simply allowed a top-up introduced by Labour to expire.

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