Fuel Poverty - Press Release
Fuel Poverty - Citizens Advice calls for changes to building regulations and for data sharing
23 March 2009
Citizens Advice has made a detailed response to the Utility Regulator’s Social Action Plan on fuel poverty. The Utility Regulator is an independent body set up to ensure the effective regulation of the electricity, gas and water and sewerage industries in Northern Ireland.
Derek Alcorn CAB Chief Executive in Northern Ireland said:
“Co- ordinated action by Government and new legislation are necessary to tackle an issue which was the focus of much public debate in the autumn, but which will return to the centre of the agenda if a more focussed strategy and marketing campaign is not put in place. Based on the evidence brought to us by the public we have put forward the following recommendations, people who need help with energy bills are encouraged to contact us for advice and information”.
- Building regulations should be changed to ensure the optimum energy efficiency of all new houses built in Northern Ireland.
- Data Sharing. The NI Assembly should consider legislation to permit data sharing by government agencies which administer benefits and allowances for vulnerable people. In the first instance SSA, NIHE and Lands and Property Services.
- Unified Code of Practice. We fully support the Regulator’s suggestion for energy suppliers in Northern Ireland to develop a unified code of practice for customers in debt and for helping customers to avoid debt.
- Comprehensive advice to the public on energy efficiency should be available at their first point of contact with government, coupled with active assistance for people with literacy difficulties.
- Social tariffs. There needs to be a clear understanding of the meaning of social tariffs, and we would recommend that the Regulator examines the current anomalies in payment methods that penalise low income households.
- Competition. Customers will only benefit equally from retail competition when it offers them a choice of supplier.
- Income maximisation. Initiatives to help the elderly and others to maximise household income through benefit entitlement generated additional payments of £8m in 2007-08. Such initiatives can make a very significant contribution to the alleviation of fuel poverty.