Belfast Telegraph

OAP ‘left in the cold’ by energy scheme

by Natalie Irvine

A pensioner from Castlereagh has warned “you may be left out in the cold” by the government backed Warm Homes Scheme — designed to help those on benefits keep their homes warm.

Mr Alex McPhedran contacted the Community Telegraph last week in response to MLA Robin Newton’s comments in our paper (September 9) welcoming the Warm Home Scheme and advising people to apply.

Seventy-two-year-old Mr McPhedran said: “I want to know why the goal posts of this scheme have changed and why those who receive rate relief can no longer apply.

“Last year I applied to this scheme through Phoenix Gas who helped me to fill in the application form and send it off.

“At first I received a telephone call from the Warm Home Scheme to tell me they had received my form and that the benefits I received ensured I qualified for the scheme.

“But seven weeks later, around June 2009, they called me again and told me the goal posts had changed in terms of the benefits you needed to qualify for the scheme. They said I couldn’t access the scheme because I didn’t have full housing benefit, and that having rate relief no longer met the criteria.”

He continued: “A lot of people like myself who own their own home are receiving rate relief because we obviously need help in this area.

“When you are over 70 you get an additional 20 per cent rate relief because of your obvious circumstances. I can’t understand why we can’t therefore have access to this scheme and why the criteria was changed.

“I think this is something the older people reading your paper should know about.”

The Warm Homes Scheme offers a range of insulation measures such as cavity wall insulation, loft insulation and hot water tank jackets to householders on ‘qualifying benefits’ who either own or rent their home from a private landlord.

A spokesperson from the Warm Homes Scheme, administered by the Department of Social Development, said: “The Warm Homes Scheme, managed by Bryson Charitable Group and H & A Mechanical from July 1, 2009 is a totally new scheme with different qualifying benefits and measures to that of the old scheme.

“Any customer details passed over by the old scheme managers were assessed against new scheme criteria and where relevant these applicants have been processed for any appropriate measures available.”

Cllr Newton said: "It's unfortunate that people on rate relief are not entitled to the scheme but it is still worth applying as many pensioners will find they are eligible.”

To find out if you qualify for the scheme contact 0800 988 0559.

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