SDLP Foyle MLA Sinéad McLaughlin has called for clarity on the £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme, following comments by the Utility Regulator that the timing and delivery of the scheme is still unclear and may not arrive until January.
The MLA has written to the Chief Secretary of the Treasury to request an urgent update on the scheme.
Ms McLaughlin said:
“More and more people across the North are being forced into poverty due to rising costs and I am receiving calls every day from constituents who are desperate for support and anxious for any update on the promised £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme and the derisory £100 for those who rely on home heating oil. People were counting on this money to help them get through the winter and had received assurances it would arrive this month.
“We need urgent clarity on this scheme. People are at their wit’s end and now they have been plunged into confusion. Months of turmoil and chaos at Westminster and dysfunction at Stormont is hampering any efforts to provide clear and consistent messaging on the support that is available to households. This lack of information is even leading to some of our constituents being exploited by dangerous scams.
“I have written to the Chief Secretary of the Treasury to request an update on this important scheme so that we can continue to keep people updated on the support that is available. It is deeply frustrating that due to the DUP boycott of power-sharing in the middle of the worst cost of living crisis in generations, we are forced to address questions not to locally accountable decision makers, but to the Treasury in London.
"Families are waiting on this money to help them heat their homes and put food on the table, it's getting colder, Christmas is approaching and it's deeply disappointing that the goalposts have once again been moved on this vital lifeline. We need answers now so that people can plan how they are going to get through the next few months."