“THIS is the best Christmas present elderly people will get,” said Cork advocate for the elderly Paddy O’Brien, following the news that households will see €100 knocked off their first electricity bills next year.
Proposals are set to be brought to Cabinet next week that will see all 2m homes in the State receive €100 credit in January as the Government moves to address rising energy costs.
Consumers have been hit with 35 hikes to energy bills in the past year, with households paying up to €1,300 extra, while the annual rate of inflation rose to 5.3% in November, its highest in 20 years.
Mr O’Brien said the news was a “nice boost” for senior citizens.
“It takes away a bit of worry, it is fantastic news,” he said. “This is the best Christmas present elderly people will get.”
Mr O’Brien said he had met a lot of elderly people who were “skimping” in order to pay bills.
“The various rises have created major problems for elderly people trying to live. Elderly people in particular are finding it exceptionally difficult to keep up with their bills and put adequate food on the table.
"Elderly people are always nervous and fearful about bills.
“I am coming across a lot of people at the moment who are skimping. They are not buying adequate food for themselves as they are saving their money to pay the bills for fear of being cut off. You actually have elderly people going to bed early at night, trying to cut down on their bills and staying warm.”
South Munster Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) regional manager Ursula Collins also welcomed the Government initiative.
“We have seen a massive increase in applications for support around utility costs in the last year. This is very welcome news and it will ease the burden.”
Ms Collins said a lot of people and families were “struggling” with the dramatic rise in the cost of living in Cork.
“There are a lot of people and families struggling and under pressure, both waged and unwaged. It is affecting all parts of the community, both people on welfare and across the board. We have reached out to provide them with support.
“The Electric Ireland fund has been fabulous this year. It supports people who have bills they cannot pay.
“We would also link in with the likes of St Vincent de Paul to secure other supports for people.”
She said that “€52,000 worth of support has gone to assist people in Cork in the last 11 months, which is phenomenal. This gives some indication of the level of hardship people are experiencing because of the dramatic increase in utility bills in the last 12 months”.