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Dublin: 5 °C Saturday 14 December, 2019
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Govt promises no disconnections this winter

The Society of St Vincent de Paul has welcomed comments by Minister Pat Rabbitte that households will not have their heating and electricity disconnected this winter.

The Big Freezes of the past two winters have added to the burden of high energy and electricity bills felt by some households.
The Big Freezes of the past two winters have added to the burden of high energy and electricity bills felt by some households.
Image: Photocall Ireland

HOUSEHOLDS STRUGGLING TO pay their energy bills will not face disconnection this year once they enter a pay plan or install a pay-as-you-go meter, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has confirmed.

Pat Rabbitte’s remarks were welcomed by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) today.

In 2009, the organisation spent almost €6m to keep electricity and heating working in Irish homes. The society said the threat of disconnection has added to the burden and desperation many people feel as their debts mount.

“For the last two winters we have all experienced periods of very low temperatures. This is a challenge for all of us, but for people on low income, in poor health or with limited mobility, as well as those in housing of low energy efficiency, such winters are particularly stressful and in certain cases life threatening,” said SVP President Mairead Bushnell.

Pre-pay meters

The biggest change announced by Minister Rabbitte yesterday is that more people will have access to pre-pay meters this winter.

Previously, pay-as-you-go services were not offered to households whose debts were not deemed high enough.

Commenting on the development, Bushness said, “Households need to be able to have meters installed before arrears mount to assist customers keep control over their income.”

However, there are still concerns that people will sign up to a meter to avoid disconnection but not be able to fund its use.

SVP is proposing a system of monitoring pay-as-you-go meters in order to establish if customer’s energy use falls below what they personally require. “That is real fuel poverty,”explained Bushnell.

Minister Rabbitte said he believes there are many other aspects to fuel poverty that must be addressed. He said he will be submitting a Memorandum on an Energy Affordability Strategy to the Government shortly.

He says that energy efficiency and insulation in vulnerable homes need to be improved.

Read: Older people cold and lonely in rural Ireland – SVP>

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