SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan has said that the boiler replacement scheme must be revised so that it can meet high demand.
Mr Durkan said:
When the boiler replacement scheme was announced by the Minister of Social Development last year it was hoped that it would assist householders who do not qualify for other Government energy efficient improvement schemes making them vulnerable to fuel poverty.
The SDLP fully welcomed the scheme which is administered by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive because it was aimed at ending the scourge of fuel poverty and assisting people during tough economic times.
However it has become increasingly apparent through engagement with my constituents that the scheme is not delivering. I have received figures from the Department for Social Development which show that 24,660 applications forms have been issued and only 1,334 works have been completed. This equates to approximately 5% of boilers being replaced and this is extremely disappointing.
The schemes application process is overly onerous and places barriers before people hoping to manage their household budget and ward off fuel poverty.
I have raised the issue with DSD officials and was informed that DETI will set aside ?8million for the implementation of the scheme over the next two years. While it is welcome to have money aimed at tackling fuel poverty I believe this could be throwing good money after bad.
The scheme must be changed and improved. Many people are being pressurised into paying upfront before they are given the grant which is often extremely difficult. Furthermore small businesses may be reluctant to take on the work if there are delays around money being paid.
The scheme is failing to deliver. It is not failing through a lack of demand but through the inefficiencies and barriers people who want to avail of the scheme are facing. I would call on the Minister for Social Development to urgently review this scheme so that it can start to work for those who need it most.
Further information: Mark H Durkan 07973363702
SDLP Press Office 028 9052 1364
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