SDLP Communities Spokesperson Mark H Durkan has urged Minister Deirdre Hargey to extend the winter fuel payment to all households in receipt of Universal Credit.
Mr Durkan said the payment should also be extended to those on legacy benefits.
He was speaking after the SDLP published its energy costs action plan this week.
Foyle MLA Mr Durkan said:
“Given the steep rise in energy bills over the last few months there are families across the North struggling to heat their homes this winter. In the absence of any action from the Joint First Ministers or Minister Hargey to mitigate the situation the SDLP has produced a number of proposals in our energy costs action plan to try and help people through this very difficult period.
“While energy bills are increasing by hundreds of pounds a year, Universal Credit claimants, who are already struggling to get by, have seen their payments cruelly cut by £20 a week by the Tory government and waved through by Sinn Féin. These people were barely able to cover their bills before the recent price hikes and I cannot see how they will able to meet these massive costs.
“In an attempt to help the people who really need it I’m calling for the winter fuel payment, a modest payment of up to £300, to be extended to all households in receipt of Universal Credit. This money will allow families to top up their gas cards and fill their oil tanks to get them through this winter, then we can focus on tackling the long-term issues around fuel poverty.
“I’m also calling on the Department for Communities to work with the Department for Health to explore how families with children with disabilities can be supported to cope with rising energy costs. It’s disgraceful that we are already in the grip of winter and no plan has been forthcoming to help low income families deal with these mounting issues. I will continue lobbying Minister Hargey and doing all I can to secure immediate support for the people who need it most."