Fine Gael Dublin South Central TD, Catherine Byrne, has today (Thursday) called for a targeted approach to be taken to tackle fuel poverty, following the publication of a new report which reveals that 51% of older people have gone without food or clothing to pay for home heating.
“As we face into another cold winter, it is devastating to hear the results of this study. Of the 722 older people surveyed, almost a quarter described their dwelling as ‘too cold’. The report was carried out by DIT, the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, Brunel University London and The Centre for Excellence in Public Health in the North.
“We can’t allow this ‘heat or eat’ phenomenon to get any worse. I think we need to take a targeted approach to ensure that particular provisions are made for older people living alone, and the elderly with a chronic illness or disability.
“The Government recently published Ireland’s first ever Affordable Energy Strategy, which aims to improve the affordability of energy for low income households. It includes a provision to review the National Fuel and Household Benefits Schemes, to see how we can target cash supports for colder homes. It also introduces a new approach to measuring energy poverty, to help target at-risk households.
“I think we should also consider paying existing supports, like the fuel allowance, in two or three instalments. This would allow older and vulnerable people to buy heating oil in bulk, at a discount. Older people should also be prioritised where possible in retrofitting schemes. The Government has committed €76 million for the Better Energy Scheme this year, which will help to upgrade a further 17,000 low income homes.
“We must protect the most vulnerable people by ensuring they can live in a warm and comfortable home, which will enhance the quality of their lives and safeguard their health.”