‘No reason’ why anyone in financial hardship should lose power this winter

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath told the Dáil ‘sufficient supports’ are in place to protect people.
‘No reason’ why anyone in financial hardship should lose power this winter

By Michelle Devane, PA

Nobody should lose their energy supply this winter due to financial hardship, Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath said.

Mr McGrath added “sufficient supports” have been put in place by Government to ensure households are not disconnected from their supply.

He made the comments in the Dáil in response to Sinn Féin’s Claire Kerrane, who said the Government had not done enough to protect those facing electricity disconnections due to rising energy costs.

Mr McGrath said the Government had responded in what he believed is a “very fair and generous way” in the Budget to assist households with rising cost-of-living outgoings.

He said the measures include three €200 electricity credits, an expansion of the fuel allowance, lump payments and an increase in weekly welfare payments.

In addition, Mr McGrath said the pause on disconnections for non-payment had been extended to three months and for vulnerable customers the period had been increased to six months.

The Cork South-Central TD also said the Commission on the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) had directed that all pay-as-you-go energy customers must be placed on the cheapest tariff from December 1st.

“I’ve outlined a whole series of interventions that have been made to assist pay as you go customers,” the minister told the Dáil.

“We acknowledge they are in a different situation, they are in a more vulnerable situation because  in the absence of anything else happening, if there credit is gone then the power essentially stops.

“There should be no reason why anyone this winter because of reasons to do with financial hardship loses their power supply.”

He added: “We certainly do not want to see any vulnerable household lose their energy supply this winter.

“We do not believe that that should happen, we believe sufficient supports have been put in place to prevent that from happening.”

Sinn Féin’s social protection spokeswoman told the Dáil some 125,000 energy customers in arrears and that 715 households have already been disconnected in the first part of this year “before we get to the winter period at all”.

“For the vast majority of people they do not receive the fuel allowance so they’re being left extremely vulnerable by the fact that they don’t have supports for energy prices which are increasing,” Ms Kerrane said.

“And they do not have as easy access as Government contend in relation to accessing additional needs payment which are taking between five and eight weeks for decisions.

“If you have a utility bill you can’t wait two months for a decision and for emergency financial assistance.

“I’m speaking specifically about a ban on disconnections for households and those on pre-paid metres, 346,000 households who will take no comfort form your response.”

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