SDLP Cost of Living Spokesperson Matthew O’Toole has said it is utterly disgraceful that the lack of an Assembly and Executive is holding up energy support payments.
He was speaking after Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris and Northern Ireland Office (NIO) Minister Steve Baker indicated it would be easier to deliver the payments if an Executive was in place.
Mr O’Toole said the hold-up was the latest evidence of harm being caused to people in the North by the DUP’s boycott of the institutions, and urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to look again at support for those who use home heating oil.
South Belfast MLA Mr O’Toole said:
“Despite the DUP’s repeated attempts to deny the harm the lack of an Executive and Assembly is causing to people in the North, here is yet another example of how we could be helping people if they would end their boycott. Across these islands families have been provided with energy payment support, but people in the North are still waiting, with increasing anxiety about how they will pay their bills and heat their homes.
“Both the Secretary of State and NIO Minister have made it clear that it would be easier to get the £400 energy support payment, that we were repeatedly reassured by the DUP was on the way, out to those who need it with Ministers in place. While Stormont does not have a magic wand, the uncomfortable truth for the DUP is that having the institutions in place would be much better for people here on everything from energy support payments to our health waiting lists.
“It’s abhorrent that people who have been promised this money, who desperately need it, are still waiting. Many are relying on this £400 to help them through the winter months and for others it won’t be anywhere near enough. There has also been a total failure to support families in the North who rely on home heating oil, outside a derisory £100 support payment, which is also still yet to arrive. An Executive would be able to consider proposals like the SDLP’s 1000l of home heating oil voucher scheme, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak needs to look again at what further support can be provided to people here.”