14 December 2015, Monday
By Bryan T. Smyth
An estimated 82,200 people in Cork City and County are suffering from fuel deprivation according to trade union ‘Unite’, which today issued a brief report highlighting the prevalence of fuel deprivation on a county-by-county basis. Entitled A Cold Christmas, the document uses the most recent (2014) figures for the EU-SILC heat affordability indicator, which show that over 700,000 people were unable to afford heating at some point during the year, and adjusts them for county-level income figures to arrive at a county-by-county estimate.
Fuel deprivation impacts on the personal dignity, health and wellbeing of those directly affected. It diminishes family life at home and can impact on productivity at work. It also results in an increased demand on health and social services. Fuel deprivation is directly related to the increased rate of death in cold weather – what is known as excess winter mortality. The causes of fuel deprivation include low household income and poor home energy efficiency.
The union also proposes a package of short and medium-term measures to address fuel deprivation.
Commenting to TheCork.ie, Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly said:
“As we head into Christmas, over 82,000 people in Cork City and County are afraid to heat their homes sufficiently because they won’t be able to afford their fuel bill in January.
“The numbers facing fuel deprivation have nearly trebled since 2007, with the impact of the recession being aggravated by measures such as the cuts to Fuel Allowance. We need to ensure that the recovery spells an end to fuel deprivation.
“Unite is proposing a package of measures to address the impact of fuel deprivation in the short term, and its causes in the medium term. In the short term, we are proposing that the Government make a once-off €55 payment to all Fuel Allowance and Family Income Supplement recipients, to be payable in January 2016. This would restore the value of previous cuts to fuel allowance, while recognising the impact of fuel deprivation on low-income working families.
“In the medium term, we need to boost low incomes through restoring basic Social Protection rates to their 2009 levels within three years, raising the Minimum Wage to the level of the Living Wage and tackling the scourge of precarious work. We also need to reduce energy bills by raising energy efficiency standards, and to that end Unite is proposing a national house energy-efficiency programme, including a priority retro-fitting programme for all social housing” concluded Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly