Belfast Telegraph

One-off fuel payment announced

More than 250,000 people in Northern Ireland are to receive a one-off winter fuel payment, it has been announced.

The allowances, which will cost the Executive an estimated £23 million, are to be issued next February.

The announcement came as one Assembly member revealed that some Sinn Fein members with seats in Parliament Buildings drew just half of their £43,000 salaries - the rest going into party funds - and had to do without central heating in their homes at times.

Barry McElduff said: "We have direct experience to the same day-to-day living costs battles as other low and middle income families. Without identifying anyone, it is not unknown for some (Sinn Fein MLAs) not to have oil heating in their homes for periods of time."

Pensioners and cancer patients are to get an extra £100. People on income and employment support, as well as those on job seekers allowances are to receive £75.

The money will come out of a social protection fund which was set up in March this year in the aftermath of one of the harshest winters in years.

First Minister Peter Robinson said: "The delivery of a fuel poverty initiative this year was identified by the Executive as one of our most pressing issues due to the impact of increased household energy costs, that affect us all, but particularly those who are most likely already experiencing significant levels of fuel poverty.

"Those who are struggling to keep their homes warm this winter will draw comfort from this decision, which will help alleviate the financial burden on some of our most vulnerable citizens - low income families, pensioners and those who are being treated for cancer."

Claire Keatinge, Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, said: "Keeping warm and keeping well in the winter is really important for the health and well-being of older people.

"Too many older people find it hard to manage on their income, and find the rising cost of fuel a real problem. Today's announcement of additional financial support to help older people meet costs of fuel is very welcome indeed."

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