Northern Ireland Assembly
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Collaboration is Key to Reducing Fuel Poverty Says Assembly Committee
The Assembly Committee for Social Development has yesterday published its report on fuel poverty.
The wide ranging report focuses on potential solutions to fuel poverty and examines the mechanisms by which these solutions can be further explored, prioritised and implemented.
Speaking after the launch of yesterday's report, Committee Chairperson Alex Maskey MLA said: “Fuel poverty has become endemic in our local communities with recent statistics citing that over 44% of people here are finding it increasingly difficult to heat their homes. It was within this context that my Committee initiated a fuel poverty event, where relevant departments, their committees and a range of stakeholders came together to devise targeted and workable solutions to combating fuel poverty.
“We were very keen to ensure that our report would focus on all the underlying issues that surround fuel poverty. We believe that our recommendations are realistic, practical and viable and if implemented will make a very real difference to the way we tackle fuel poverty in our local communities.
The report advocates the establishment of thematic action groups (TAGS).
These groups would be tasked with identifying and prioritising agreed workable, realistic and time bound solutions to fuel poverty.
A number of practical considerations are also explored in the report. These include the feasibility of alternative payment options for home heating oil such as pay-as-you-go schemes and innovative approaches by both the public and private sector to maximise benefit uptake. The report also recommends that the practicality of energy brokerage schemes is further explored. Currently the Northern Ireland Housing Executive negotiates on behalf of its tenants, using its relative size to reduce fuel costs to tenants.
Mr Maskey concluded: “My Committee recognises the challenge that fuel poverty presents and we are under no illusion that there are any quick fixes. However, we are confident that the recommendations contained in this report present the Executive departments, led by DSD, and stakeholders with an opportunity to engage constructively and collaboratively and to put in place real and practical solutions that will reduce and ultimately prevent fuel poverty here. It is vital that the recommendations and solutions identified in the report are urgently considered and taken forward by the department”.
The Social Development Committee’s Fuel Poverty Report can be accessed on the Northern Ireland Assembly Website via the following link http://nia1.me/wn
Notes to Editors:
The Social Development Committee organised and hosted a fuel poverty stakeholder event in November 2011. A first of its kind, this event brought together a range of stakeholders, officials from the eight Government departments represented on the Interdepartmental Group on Fuel Poverty and the Chairs of the Committees which oversee the work of these departments, in a collaborative approach to identify and prioritise workable solutions to fuel poverty.
The event provided an opportunity for those in attendance to take a collaborative approach towards clarifying the work already underway in relation to fuel poverty and to identify and prioritise solutions to the problem.
1. Fuel poverty is defined as the percentage of households that need to spend more than 10% of their disposable income in order to achieve an adequate standard of warmth. In Northern Ireland, it is widely agreed that the rate of fuel poverty is among the worst in Northern Europe. The most recent official estimate puts the rate of fuel poverty here at 44% of households (NIHCS, 2010).
2. Fuel poverty can disproportionately affect those on low incomes, ill families with infants and young children, and the elderly.
3. Recent statistics indicate that the excess winter mortality index in NI is around 15-20% in most years. While these deaths cannot be wholly attributable to fuel poverty it is undeniable that not being able to afford to heat one’s home is a contributing factor to ill-health and has potentially life-threatening implications for the elderly. Based on the most recent Surgeon General’s Annual Report for Northern Ireland it can be estimated that there have been 1,890 excess winter deaths in the last decade which are directly attributable to people living in cold and damp homes (Morris & Liddell, 2011).
The Committee for Social Development membership is:
Alex Maskey MLA (Chairperson)
Mickey Brady MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Paula Bradley MLA
Pam Brown MLA
Judith Cochrane MLA
Michael Copeland MLA
Mark H Durkan MLA
Alex Easton MLA
Fra McCann MLA
David McClarty MLA
Alastair Ross MLA
The Clerk of the Social Development Committee is:
Dr. Kevin Pelan
Northern Ireland Assembly
Phone: 028 90 521864