Aontú Deputy Leader and Fermanagh South Tyrone rep Cllr Denise Mullen has lambasted the chaotic Emergency Fuel Payment Scheme. She stated:
“When the Department of Communities announced the £2m crisis fuel fund in December to ease the burden of fuel costs on 20,000 vulnerable families, there was a sense of relief that at last something was being done to try to counter the unprecedented increase in energy prices for those already struggling financially”.
“I was happy to be able to advise my many concerned constituents that they could apply as early as the 6th January for the subsidy however since that date, I have been inundated with calls from very vulnerable constituents who have been unable to get through to Bryson Charitable Group, the organisation who are responsible for administering the funds”.
“These desperate people are calling daily from 9am only to realise that the lines are already closed. Constituents are extremely frustrated, but beyond this, I have a number of young families who are truly desperate and are currently unable to heat their homes”.
“This is completely unacceptable, and I would appeal to Minister Deirdre Hargey to step in immediately and take control of this shambles, not only ensuring that the many people who need to access the funds are serviced but also to consider increasing the subsidy”.
“As Pat Austin from the Fuel Poverty Coalition stated, the amount available in the face of this crisis is ‘really nothing’. Fuel poverty people in a range of ways, physical and mental health, household finances and quality of life to name a few. Would it be too much to expect the Department to operate an ‘emergency’ scheme that functions properly”?