A doubling of the level of carbon tax on solid fuels from tomorrow (May 1) will create added hardship for older people who are already struggling to heat their homes to a safe level, Age Action has warned.
The Government must act immediately to protect the most vulnerable of older people from rising energy costs by ring-fencing revenue from the tax to fund increased payments in the means-tested winter fuel allowance this Autumn, the older people’s charity demanded.
The increased carbon tax will add €1.20 to a 40kg bag of coal and €0.26 to a bale of briquettes. It follows imposition of similar increases in May, 2013, when carbon tax was extended to solid fuel. The hardest hit will be older people who live in homes without central heating and who depend on solid fuel for their heat needs. However, many older people have also been juggling their energy costs over the winter by switching off their central heating for periods and using more solid fuel.
“The Government has a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable of older people, and if it intervenes to drive up the cost of fuel through the imposition of carbon tax, the very minimum it should do is ensure it protects people who are already struggling to heat their homes to a safe level,” Mr Timmins said.
The increase in the carbon tax follows cuts to the fuel supports for older people in 2011, when the means-tested fuel allowance was cut by six weeks. Changes to how fuel supports were paid through the Household Benefits Package in Budget 2013 also reduced the spending power of older people when it came to energy.
In the meantime, older people’s fixed pensions have been hit by a range of new demands from the State including household charges, property tax and prescription charges. “The clear message from our national consultation of members in recent weeks was that many older people are at breaking point as a result of the cumulative impact of multiple cuts and new charges,” Mr Timmins said.
The increased in carbon tax must also be viewed against Ireland’s shameful excess winter death rate of between 1,500 and 2,000 deaths. Most of these are older people, who are dying of respiratory illness, heart attack and stroke – cold-related conditions.
Those most at risk are people on low incomes, those living alone, occupants of poorly insulated homes, and those with disabilities or health problems which restrict their mobility or leave them house-bound.