SDLP MLA for Mid Ulster, Patsy McGlone, has again urged the Minister for Communities to implement proposed reform of the Affordable Warmth Scheme. The Mid Ulster MLA was responding to an Assembly written answer from the Minister to a question he had submitted on the delayed reform.
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 current income threshold and the inclusion of benefits as income has meant that many who are fuel poor, often with exacerbating health problems, could not access the scheme.
“The Department for Communities own consultation found significant support for the proposed reform of the Affordable Warmth Scheme.
“But in the absence of an Executive the Department appeared reluctant to implement changes to the scheme – including adjusting the income threshold, and ensuring that Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Carer’s Allowance would no longer be included in the calculation of income.
“Rather than introducing further delay it is essential that the Minister now takes control of the reform of the Affordable Warmth Scheme and secures Executive approval for the proposed changes.
“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 will continue to lobby the Minister for the immediate implementation of the proposed reform of this important scheme.”
Notes to editors:
Written Answer AQW 396/17-22 – Affordable Warmth Scheme Eligibility Criteria
Mr McGlone: To ask the Minister for Communities whether she will amend the eligibility criteria to make the Affordable Warmth Scheme more accessible by increasing the income threshold for the scheme and that Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Carer’s Allowance and Attendance Allowance be excluded from the calculation of income; and, if so, when this work will begin.
Minister for Communities: The DfC carried out a public consultation between 17th November 2017 and 16th February 2018 into proposed changes to the Affordable Warmth Scheme. The DfC proposed to raise the income threshold to £23,000 for households with more than one adult and reducing it to £18,000 for all single person households. It further proposed that Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Carer’s Allowance are not included in the calculation of income for the Affordable Warmth Scheme.
The consultation found significant support for both these proposals. I will consider the findings of the consultation and make a decision on the implementation of the proposals by the end of February 2020.