Upper Bann DUP MP Carla Lockhart has said the increasing frustration among the public at the application process for the Emergency Fuel Payment Scheme must be addressed by the Communities Minister Deidre Hargey MLA, and that her refusal to accept responsibility for the deficiencies in the scheme is failing people in urgent fuel need.
Carla Lockhart said:
“We are entering a period of settled, cold weather when homes will need heated to keep people warm.
My office has been inundated with people who find themselves in urgent fuel need. Their oil has run out, or is running out, or they cannot afford to pay for gas. They need this £100 payment now, yet every day they are being told to apply tomorrow because they have been unable to access the application process. That is going to leave some people with no means to heat their home for days. This includes elderly, vulnerable people with chronic health conditions, and those with young children. It is simply not good enough.
So far, the Minister has passed the buck of responsibility to the scheme administrators, Bryson Charitable Group. That is not good enough. Her Department ultimately signed off on the scheme and would have been consulted on its operation. Currently the application process is not fit for purpose. That application can only be completed online is a huge flaw considering many of those in urgent fuel need being elderly and simply not able to apply online.
Every day the Minister absolves herself of responsibility for this scheme is a day when someone will go cold unnecessarily. Deidre Hargey needs to intervene here and fix this scheme and help get support to those who urgently need it.”