Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has welcomed the distribution of £42.3million of Covid-19 Heating Payments for older people and those in receipt of certain disability benefits at the highest rates.
The one-off payment of £200 began issuing last week with those eligible receiving the payment automatically through their existing payment channels. They include individuals in receipt of Pension Credit, as well as those receiving the higher rate of Attendance Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Disability Living Allowance, including children.
The payment is the latest support being provided by the Department for Communities in its coordinated response to the Covid-19 crisis and is in addition to other heating supports and schemes provided by the Department. Around 220,000 payments are expected to be made as part of the scheme, totalling approximately £44million overall.
Minister Hargey said: “Last week my Department began issuing a one-off Covid-19 heating payment to around 211,000 people with approximately 220,000 people expected to benefit overall. This will deliver vital support when needed most to older people and those with medical conditions who may be more susceptible to negative health impacts from colder temperatures and who are at greater risk from Covid-19.”
Further heating support as part of the Department’s response to the ongoing pandemic has been made available through the £3million Warm, Well and Connected scheme. This help is for those in extreme need, who have not been able to access support elsewhere and whose finances have been directly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. To date £283,228 has been distributed through the initiative, supporting 3481 households.
The payments in response to Covid-19 are in addition to the annual Winter Fuel Payment made to people born on or before 5 October 1954. To date this winter, almost 284,000 Winter Fuel Payments have been issued with a total value of nearly £51million.
A Cold Weather Payment was also made for the period ending 4 January with over £400,000 paid to around 16,000 people. This payment is made when the average temperature is recorded, or is forecast to be, zero degrees centigrade or below, for a period of seven consecutive days in certain postcode areas. Qualifying customers living in postcode areas BT24 to BT26 and BT30 to BT34 automatically received the £25 payment.
The Minister continued: “It has been my objective since the start of this pandemic to reach those most in need, in times of greatest need, and to supplement existing supports wherever possible. This week’s Covid-19 Heating Payment and the heating element of the Warm, Well and Connected scheme underlines my commitment to that aim and adds to the heating payment supports provided by my Department annually.
“I will continue to take every opportunity I can to ensure support reaches those who need it, when they need it most.”
The Department for Communities also funds schemes which aim to address fuel poverty and energy efficiency in the private sector.
The Affordable Warmth Scheme is delivered by the Housing Executive and local councils. This scheme is aimed at those who own their home or rent from a private sector landlord and have a gross annual household income of less than £20,000. In 2019-20 around £12,331,383 was issued to 2,594 households.
The Boiler Replacement Scheme, which is also administered on the Department’s behalf by the Housing Executive, is for owner occupiers with a gross income of less than £40,000 and helps with the cost of replacing boilers which are 15 years old or older. In 2019-20 around £1,424,536 was issued to 2,161 households.