SDLP Cost of Living Spokesperson Matthew O’Toole has said that the blame for the delay to the £600 energy support payment lies with the DUP.
Mr O’Toole also slammed the British government for their failure to get the payment out to struggling families before Christmas.
He said it would be much easier to get the payment out with an Assembly and Executive in place.
South Belfast MLA Mr O’Toole said:
“The news that the £600 energy support payment won't make it to people in Northern Ireland before Christmas will be an incredible blow to many families who were waiting for and relying on this money. There will be people finding it difficult to pay their food, fuel and energy bills who had budgeted to the last penny to get through the festive period, after repeated reassurances that this payment was coming.
“People here have been abandoned – abandoned by the DUP who would rather use people in our communities who are going cold and hungry as a bargaining chip for their own narrow, identity driven politics and by a British government who have proven time and time again they couldn’t care less about the issues impacting people in the North.
“Families in England, Scotland and Wales have begun to receive this support. People in the South are being protected by a raft of proposals designed to defend people from the worst aspects of this emergency. The fact remains that if we had an Executive and Assembly in place we would have stood a better chance of getting this money to those who need it. The DUP can keep shouting and protesting, but it is their boycott of the institutions that is punishing people here.
“The SDLP has repeatedly raised this payment at Westminster and our MPs have done everything in their power to hold the government to account. These delays will leave pensioners suffering in cold homes, children missing meals and parents cracking under the pressure of trying to keep everything together. The British government’s indifference to the plight of people here should serve as a message to those who advocate for the status quo and refuse to engage in conversations around a better, brighter future for everyone on this island.”