Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland has welcomed news that the Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland is preparing to explore Ulster Unionist proposals and launch a pilot area based approach in the fight against fuel poverty. The East Belfast Ulster Unionist, who is also his Party’s Social Development spokesperson said:
‘I understand that the Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland is to launch a pilot area based approach to tackle fuel poverty. This is exactly what the Ulster Unionist Party called for in our Fuel Poverty Paper launched in January of this year’.
We believe that an area based approach is capable of bringing great improvement in terms of delivering both results and value for money. For example, in a similar time period as it took Kirklees Council in Yorkshire to help over 50,000 households, the current approach in Northern Ireland helped less than 30,000 households, and for three times the budget. This cannot continue.
The current Warm Homes Scheme gives people a grant of up to £850 for insulation measures and up to £4300 to fit heating and insulation measures to help make homes warmer and more energy efficient. To qualify, applicants must be in receipt of one of a number of means tested or welfare benefits such as the working tax credit or pension credit. The scheme is aimed at people who own their own home and people who rent their homes from private landlords.
Unfortunately, whilst the success to date is clear, the level of uptake for this scheme is very poor amongst those groups who would in theory benefit most from it.
The Ulster Unionist Party has two key proposals which we believe will improve the situation here.
In the short-term we wish to see the restrictive criteria of this existing scheme broadened so that the limits on insulation levels and the exclusion of older boilers are removed. The scheme also requires substantially more marketing to increase the awareness of those eligible.
In the longer-term we wish to fundamentally review the delivery and scope of the Warm Homes Scheme with the objective of developing and adopting a new area based approach.”