Cancer patients and many on benefits across Derry were celebrating yesterday following the announcement that they will receive a special winter fuel payment from the Stormont Executive.
The First and Deputy First Ministers made the announcement that 250,000 people across the North, including at least 22,000 in Derry, will receive the one-off fuel payment from the Executive’s social protection fund. More than £2m in payments will be made in the Derry area.
As well as cancer patients, others on a range of benefits will also receive the one-off payment. Those receiving treatment for cancer, together with those on pension credits, will receive £100, while anyone on income support, job seekers’ allowance or employment support allowance will get £75.
The move comes after a strong lobby from Derry cancer support group, the Pink Ladies, who took their campaign for a winter fuel payment for cancer patients to the Stormont in October.
The lobby, which was supported by junior minister Martina Anderson, began after local cancer patient, Margaret Kelly, said that her condition had left her in a position where she had to make the choice between heating her home or eating. The former nurse had said her worries about how she was going to heat her home almost drove her to suicide.
Speaking after yesterday’s announcement, Mrs Kelly said she was “over the moon” that the Pink Ladies’ campaign for a winter fuel payment had borne fruit.
“I am delighted. This is great news for cancer sufferers. People don’t understand that cancer throws you into poverty and this news will lift a weight off the minds of people like myself who were left the choice of whether to heat or eat.
“It is unbelievable that we have got this so quickly. It shows what can be achieved if people get together and campaign,” she said.
Karen Mullan from the Pink Ladies said she was “absolutely delighted” by the news.
“We have lobbied for this and Martina Anderson has kept it on the Executive agenda. This is great news for cancer patients everywhere.”
Junior Minister Anderson said: “This has come from Derry. The Pink Ladies lobbied for this and we ensured it was in the Programme for Government. It shows the real power people have on government policy.”
Foyle MP Mark Durkan also welcomed the Executive announcement.