SDLP Communities spokesperson Mark H Durkan said the latest setback in the roll out of the £200 Energy Support Payment scheme, which was announced in January, is unacceptable.
The payment, which was due to be made Thursday 9th March, will now be made from Friday 10th March onwards, after the Department for Work and Pensions system experienced a "technical glitch".
The Foyle MLA said:
“Minister Hargey and her department have had two months to iron out any issues and ensure this payment runs smoothly. It is wholly unacceptable that people who have been waiting in desperation for months for this promised £200 payment, are now being told that it will be made from Friday onwards after the Minister gave assurances that it would be paid Thursday and Friday. There is no guarantee that this technical glitch in the system will be resolved by the end of the week.
“I have repeatedly highlighted the importance of getting this money to people quickly. This should have been sorted out before Christmas and now we are looking at a payment to support people through a difficult winter being issued in spring, with fuel escalating in price on a daily basis.
“It is disgraceful that struggling individuals and their families are seemingly being treated as an afterthought by the Minister. Her lack of urgency on such a critical issue is shameful. The SDLP will continue to fight to extend this payment to all households including those in receipt of legacy benefits, putting people first and giving them the help they desperately need.
“This scheme was announced at the beginning of the year it’s been dangled in front of freezing families for too long. The latest setback is simply not good enough. People deserve better.”