Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland affordable heat scheme hit by logjam at Stormont

By Steven Alexander

Plans being considered by civil servants to make it easier for people struggling to afford home heating to take advantage of the Affordable Warmth Scheme will not come into effect until there is a new Stormont minister.

Since the scheme started in April 2015 it has helped more than 10,000 vulnerable households in Northern Ireland.

Now the Department for Communities has launched a public consultation on proposed changes to the Affordable Warmth Scheme, which aims to improve the energy efficiency of households in severe fuel poverty.

Among the proposals being considered are raising the income threshold to £23,000 for households with more than one adult, and not counting several welfare benefits in the calculation of income for the scheme.

Other criteria may also be changed that could open the initiative up to more people.

But in a statement, the department said that "any future changes to the scheme will be subject to approval by an incoming minister for the department".

"The purpose of the consultation is solely to seek views on possible changes to the scheme. These views will be made available to an incoming minister.

"No changes will be made to the existing scheme until a minister is in place," the department said.

The consultation period runs from November 13, 2017 to February 16, 2018.

The consultation document and EQIA screen are available at www.communities-ni.gov.uk/consultations/changes-affordable-warmth-scheme.

Belfast Telegraph

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