(8 February 2022) Age Action has written to all TDs and Senators to insist that the Government publishes a new energy poverty strategy asap, with real solutions for the many older persons on low incomes and in poorly insulated housing. The cost of energy is central to the cost-of-living crisis. In one year, between December 2020 and December 2021, the cost of energy rose by 27%, and energy costs are now 34% higher than December 2016. Up to 28% of households may be in fuel poverty, including 165,000 of households with older persons.
Yet, the Government’s Strategy to combat energy poverty 2016-2019 is out of date, and the current energy cost crisis has shown that it needs to be substantially revised.
The Government’s proposed €100 energy payment to all households is the equivalent of just €1.92/week. While welcome, the one-off €100 payment will provide little added help to those who simply cannot afford to keep the heat turned on. According to the Minimum Essential Standard of Living research for 2021, older persons need to spend at least between €24.76 and €33.28 per week on home energy costs, with rural homes costing more to heat. These costs will be much higher in 2022.
Fuel Allowance provides €17.72/week on an annualised basis, and the electricity or gas allowance in the Household Benefits Package to people over 70 provides €8.05/week. Even combined, this does not cover the whole cost and only 3 in 10 older persons receives Fuel Allowance. Thousands of older persons who are not eligible for Fuel Allowance struggle to afford the cost of electricity, gas and other fuels. The Fuel Allowance eligibility rules need to be substantially revised, and new payments are needed to help older people with energy costs.
Our analysis of the CSO data on the quality of the housing stock occupied by older people combined with the fact that the majority of older people are not eligible for the fuel allowance nor do they have an adequate opportunity to increase their income suggests that older people are especially at risk to energy price hikes.
Age Action is calling for a comprehensive energy poverty strategy, to include new measures to use carbon tax revenue to fund energy payments to every older person who cannot afford rising energy costs.