SDLP MLA for Mid Ulster, Patsy McGlone, has warned that the absence of an Executive is preventing reform of the Affordable Warmth Scheme.
Mr McGlone said, “The SDLP has been lobbying the Department for Communities for changes to the Affordable Warmth Scheme for some time.
“There has been widespread concern that the present income threshold and the inclusion of benefits as income has meant that many who are fuel poor, often with exacerbating health problems, cannot access the scheme.
“Last year the Department proposed several changes to the Affordable Warmth Scheme – including raising the income threshold to £23,000 for households with more than one adult and reducing it to £18,000 for all single person households, and that Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Carer’s Allowance would no longer be included in the calculation of income.
“However, a year later none of these changes have been made.
“The Department appears to be reluctant to implement the proposals in the absence of a functioning Executive and Assembly.
“These are changes that have been widely accepted as necessary to ensure that the Affordable Warmth Scheme operates as intended, and that those in genuine need of assistance are not unfairly excluded.
“I have written to the Permanent Secretary seeking an update on the Department’s position on the proposed changes and will continue to lobby for their immediate implementation.”