SDLP Assembly Leader and Spokesperson on the Cost of Living Crisis Matthew O’Toole MLA has said that the long delays to the British Government’s energy support schemes in Northern Ireland have made ordinary families casualties of the crisis.
The SDLP proposed a voucher scheme specific to the unique energy market in Northern Ireland in September. This approach recognised the upfront nature of payments for domestic energy consumption in Northern Ireland through the home heating oil market and pre-payment metres.
Matthew O’Toole MLA said that the British Government’s delay in accepting that approach has left people unable to heat their homes during the coldest part of the year.
Matthew O’Toole MLA said:
“I am glad that, at long last, people will begin to see some support with their energy bills early next year. This support is long overdue and the hard truth is that the entirely preventable delays have made ordinary families here casualties of this crisis.
“The SDLP proposed a self-enrolment voucher scheme months ago as the only way to get support to those who needed it quickly. The unique energy market in Northern Ireland, with high reliance on home heating oil and a significant proportion of gas and electricity customers on pre-payment metres, creates a dependency on up-front payments. The only way to satisfy that demand in an emergency is to create a voucher scheme. It is a scandal that the British Government was unable to understand that more quickly and ordinary families have paid the price.
“We have just been through the coldest part of the year when people really needed help. Now we’re on another promise of support next year. The patience and confidence of the public has, frankly, been erased by this fiasco. The payments need to go through as quickly as possible, SDLP MPs will hold the British Government to account but this is another area where the DUP’s boycott has prevented local Ministers from acting. Politicians need to get to work now.”