£100 grant for emergency oil, gas or electricity fuel goes live in Northern Ireland

Applications for additional emergency payments to those severely impacted by the fuel price crisis have opened today, Thursday, January 6.

People can check if they quality for the £100 grants for oil, gas or electricity heating via the Emergency Fuel Scheme page at www.brysongroup.org/However the service, as of this evening, was ‘extremely busy’ and no more applications were being accommodated at this time, and people urged to check back.

In total 20,000 families across the north are expected to benefit from the additional £2m in funding, with one Derry MLA expressing concerns that many, many more people are in need of help.

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The Department for Communities, in collaboration with Bryson Charitable Group, the Consumer Council and a range of local energy companies, are contributing the £2m to the Emergency Fuel Payment Scheme, which will run until March 31 2022.

Minister Hargey said: “The unprecedented energy price rises have meant that those who are already struggling financially are facing added pressures during the winter months and there is therefore a need for an immediate response.

“This additional funding is vital in providing emergency financial support to vulnerable families to meet their energy costs and where it is essential to protect people’s mental health and physical wellbeing.

“The scheme is an excellent example of government working together with private companies and the voluntary and community sector to benefit those in need of support in the time ahead.”

There has been a mixed reaction to the scheme locally.

While some have welcomed the scheme, SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H, Durkan said much more was needed given the soaring costs of heating fuel and the vast number of households struggling to heat their homes.

Mr Durkan said he had been inundated with people who were struggling to pay their bills, but would be unable to access the scheme due to its limited remit.

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He also questioned the decision to limit the number of applicants to the scheme per day, which would mean eligible people in need of support missing out on the payment.

“The scheme will only help those in the most dire of circumstances and will do nothing to help the thousands of people struggling with this issue on a daily basis,” he said. “There is also a limited number of applications per day, so even if people find themselves in need of support and meet all the criteria, they could still miss out on this much needed funding. The scheme isn’t even fit for purpose in emergency situations.

“My constituency office has been inundated with people crying out for support. They have seen their energy bills spiral higher and higher, alongside the cost of living crisis and many of them are simply unable to heat their homes. This is an issue that affects large swathes of society, we have been hearing from many people who are working full-time, but still cannot meet these price increases.

“Questions also remain about further funding being allocated to help people deal with the crippling fuel costs this winter.”

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It is understood to be eligible people have to have either a total annual household income under £23,000 (excluding Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Carer’s Allowance or Attendance Allowance), or been made unemployed in the last eight weeks and are awaiting confirmation of first benefit payment, or had benefits payments recently interrupted.

People also have to have run out of oil. gas or electric heating or have only a few days left, or received or are expecting an electricity/gas bill within 5 days they can’t afford to pay.