Belfast Telegraph

'Society's most vulnerable' lose out on home-heating scheme because of deadlock

By Michael Sheils McNamee

Some of society's "most vulnerable people" are being excluded from a home-heating scheme due to the deadlock at Stormont.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said it was "the most vulnerable people in society who are being discluded" from accessing the Affordable Warmth Scheme, which is aimed at tackling fuel poverty in Northern Ireland. 

"This is an issue I picked up last year, and it’s about affordable warmth. And the way things are at the moment you have these benefits, which are in place to help people, pushing them out of the bracket for the scheme."

A letter on Tuesday from the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Communities Leo O'Reilly to Mr McGlone states no change will be made to the scheme "without the approval of a minister".

The Affordable Warmth Scheme was launched in September 2014 by the Department for Communities and is available to private households.

Households with a total income of less than £20,000 may be entitled for help under the scheme, with options for improving a property's insulation, heating, and windows.

Unlike similar schemes in Northern Ireland, under the scheme a person's income from Disability Living Allowance, the Personal Independence Payments, Carer's Allowance, and Attendance Allowance are counted towards a person's income - pushing many would-be claimants over the threshold for eligibility.

An extensive public consultation with interested parties across Northern Ireland ran for more than three months, ending in February.

Besides discounting certain benefits in calculating a person's eligibility, other possible changes to the scheme being considered include raising the income threshold to £23,000 for households with more than one adult, and reducing it to £18,000 for all single-person households.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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