Social Democratic and Labour Party MLA Sinead McLaughlin has called on the First Ministers to urgently convene a new taskforce to coordinate an Executive-wide response to the cost of living crisis as households across Northern Ireland struggle with significant increases in utility costs.
The Chair of Stormont’s Executive Office Scrutiny Committee said that soaring gas and electricity costs, coupled with cuts to Universal Credit, have left the hardest pressed families facing an incredibly difficult winter.
The situation facing homes across the North comes as government departments have yet to publish an updated energy strategy or fuel poverty strategy.
Sinead McLaughlin MLA said:
“Families and households across the North are experiencing a cost of living crisis. Utility bills are already going through the roof with further increases to gas and electricity prices expected in the coming weeks and months. This couldn’t come at a worse time with the British Government’s cut to Universal Credit leaving many families more than £1000 worse off per year and Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy’s steadfast refusal to use his spending power to reverse it.
“The impact of these price rises, and the cut to household incomes, will be severe. Families that cannot afford to adequately heat their homes will face colder conditions this winter which cause and contribute to worsening health outcomes. This is particularly concerning at a time when we are trying to bring a highly transmissible virus under control. But we also know that additional financial strain has a direct impact on mental health and wellbeing. A cost of living crisis coupled with a public health crisis is an emergency that demands the attention of our First Ministers.
“I am calling on Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill to urgently convene a Cost of Living Taskforce that will co-ordinate an Executive-wide response to the situation facing people and families across Northern Ireland. It is incredible that, faced with this situation, we currently do not have an Energy Strategy, a Fuel Poverty Strategy or any clear plan to address the challenges facing people.
“This must be an immediate priority for government.”