Belfast Telegraph

Winter payments review urged

The Consumer Council said yesterday that an urgent review of the Winter Fuel Payment is needed to ensure it adequately targets people living in fuel poverty.

The comments come amid claims that the qualifying age for the payment will rise to 66 and that the amount may be cut for some consumers.

Aodhan O’Donnell, director of Policy and Education at the Consumer Council, said: “A staggering 50% of homes here are believed to be in fuel poverty, the highest level in Western Europe.

“We also have the highest number of winter deaths — there were over a thousand deaths in 2009.

“It is for these reasons that the Consumer Council wants a review of the Winter Fuel Payment.

“It is essential that the fuel poor of all ages, including children and young people, those living in hard-to-heat homes and those with long-term illnesses, are given the support they need to heat their homes properly.”

He said the payments may not be going to the right people.

“Many consumers here rely on the Winter Fuel Payment during the cold winter months.

“However, the fact remains that many who don’t need it, also get it. If we are serious about tackling fuel poverty in an era of reduced Government spending, we need to make sure that the money spent is making the impact it needs to eradicate fuel poverty in households in Northern Ireland.”

Mr O’Donnell said his organisation would be fighting to have the problem addressed.

He said: “The Consumer Council is meeting with Alex Attwood, Minister for Social Development this month to ask him to bring his influence to bear in the fight against fuel poverty in Northern Ireland.”

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