The SDLP has proposed a radical new scheme designed to support the majority of households in Northern Ireland, which rely on home heating oil, and are facing a shockingly difficult winter of increased prices and cold homes.
The scheme would see 1000 litres of home heating oil provided to all domestic consumers across Northern Ireland over the next year, implemented through a self-enrolment voucher scheme in conjunction with oil providers, with oversight from the Utility Regulator. The scheme would be designed broadly along the lines of the High Street Voucher scheme implemented to aid Covid recovery.
Leader of the Opposition Matthew O’Toole MLA said that an urgent intervention was needed to prevent widespread fuel poverty and unnecessary deaths this winter as Northern Ireland’s unique domestic energy supply is reliant on home heating oil, with nearly 70 per cent of households relying on oil versus less than 10 per cent in Britain.
Based on the most recent average oil prices reported by the Consumer Council, the scheme would cost around £500 million, which would be funded by Barnett consequentials arising from energy market interventions in Britain, as well the £437 million unallocated in Stormont funds.
The SDLP will publish further proposals to address the cost of living crisis in the coming days.
Matthew O’Toole MLA said:
“The SDLP’s home heating oil scheme is a radical and robust proposal to prevent thousands of families falling into fuel poverty this winter. We are calling on Ministers in Northern Ireland and in London to urgently fund a scheme to provide 1000 litres of home heating oil to domestic consumers as a matter of the utmost urgency.
“Without immediate intervention, working families and the most vulnerable households will go cold this autumn and winter. Those particularly vulnerable in winter, including those with long term medical conditions and older people, will be at risk of dying if we don’t act now. The SDLP understands the pressure people are under, that’s why we have developed a plan that will make a real difference.
“A warm home isn’t a luxury, it’s a matter of basic human dignity. With more than 70% of households in Northern Ireland projected to fall into fuel poverty by next year, this is the single most important issue that politicians should be focussed on. It is the number one priority for the SDLP.
“We are proposing a self-enrolment voucher scheme that would give families the power to purchase 1000 litres of home heating oil with robust checks to be put in place by oil providers and with oversight from the Utility Regulator. The situation people are facing is bleak and time is quickly running out. Where Ministers have failed people to date, the SDLP opposition is stepping in with solutions.”