02 Jul 2022

'Scandalous' that pensioners can't afford to heat their homes - Hunter

Local MLA has said rising cost in fuel is making life extremely difficult for so many

'Scandalous' that pensioners can't afford to heat their homes

The cost of coal has risen considerably in recent weeks.

A local MLA has said it is 'scandalous' that pensioners are being put in a position where they can't afford to heat their homes.

SDLP's Cara Hunter's comments came after a local pensioner said she fears she will be 'left in the cold' this winter due to the rising costs of fuel.

The woman, who preferred not to be named, said the increased cost of home heating oil and now coal is 'putting a strain' on her finances.

In recent weeks the price of coal has increased significantly.

The average price of a 25kg bag of coal is now £15.50. A month ago, the same bag of coal cost approximately £8.

One local company says the 'current global energy crisis' is having 'a colossal impact on the price of raw materials'.

According to the company, coal prices are up in excess of $250 per tonne compared to 18 months ago.

It is understood increased shipping rates and premiums to secure supply are also pushing the prices up.

The County Derry pensioner said she purchased five bags of coal for £67 last month and was 'shocked' when she reordered the same amount last week and had to hand out £95.

“That's an increase of almost £5 per bag and I'm told the price is likely to increase further,” she told the County Derry Post.

“I'm finding it tough enough at the minute with the cost of living being so expensive. I would use both oil and coal to heat my home and with the cost of oil being so high I thought I could use the coal as an alternative source of heat. Now it looks like I won't be able to afford to heat my home at all if this keeps up.

“I fear if this continues into the winter I will have to choose between heating my home and eating,” added the woman.

SDLP East Derry MLA Cara Hunter

East Derry SDLP MLA Cara Hunter said: “The rising cost in fuel is making life extremely difficult for so many in our communities but, as ever, it is the most vulnerable who are hit the hardest.  It is scandalous that our pensioners are being put in the position where they cannot afford to heat their homes.

“People are being forced to make impossible decisions while the DUP continue with the politics of boycott.  It is time for the DUP to end their boycott and get our institutions up and running again so we can access the millions currently unspent at Stormont and get money into people’s pockets to help them deal with these rising costs.”

Ms Hunter added: “I also support the call made by our party leader Colum Eastwood to the British Government to introduce immediate measures to help those struggling, including further windfall taxes on energy companies, energy price caps, rent controls, radical wealth taxes, drastic uplifts in state benefits and a real pay rise for all workers across both the public and private sector.”

Meanwhile, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has confirmed that direct cost-of-living payments of up to £650 will be made to those 'in greatest need' over the coming weeks.

The payments will be made to those on income-related and disability benefits, as well as pensioners on State Pension Credit.
Pensioner households will also receive a one-off winter fuel payment of £300 in addition to their existing Winter Fuel payment. 

“While these payments are a step in the right direction, they do not go far enough to protect all those impacted. Many people are struggling, including workers and families who are not eligible for benefits,” said the Minister.

“The absence of a functioning Executive and no budget in place makes the challenge of dealing with these issues all the greater.

“Money needs to be put directly into the pockets of people who desperately need it.

“I am committed to doing all I can to mitigate the real and damaging impacts people are enduring.”

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