Unacceptable high levels of fuel poverty reported

By Maurice Garvey

OVER half of Money and Budgeting Service clients in Ballyfermot and Cherry Orchard reported going without heat due to a lack of money.

A fuel poverty research report commissioned by the Dublin 10 & 20 MABS, found 56 per cent of respondents, went without heat during the previous 12 months.

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The report, acting as a follow to previous research undertaken in 2013, found the level of fuel poverty amongst clients of Dublin 10 & 20 MABS remains at “unacceptably high levels” despite the national economic recovery.

A key issue highlighted in the report is the ‘poverty premium’ which refers to charges applied by some retailers, to clients using token meters to pre-pay for fuel.

The report states six out of every 10 clients surveyed were using this method of payment.

Research identified this trend by clients towards prepayment contributed towards a decline in arrears and disconnection, but also, led to self-disconnection, whereby clients cannot ‘top up’ due to lack of money.

Bill Toner, Secretary and founding member of Dublin 10 & 20 MABS, said the administration charges in shops, means “those least able to afford it are paying the highest price for their fuel.”

He also said the findings reveal MABS clients spend more on fuel and light than the general population as a whole.

“Not just a higher proportion of their income, but more money,” he said.

“MABS clients spend an average of €50 a week on fuel and light, whereas the figure is €38 for the general population.”

Mr Toner cited sample MABS clients figures of 13 per cent being employed, as opposed to 54 per cent nationally.

He said 87 per cent of ‘idle’ MABS client homes do “not have the luxury of turning off their heating from 8am to 4pm”, as do many households in the country.

This results in a “classic double whammy” – loss of income from employment, yet spending more time in the home during the day.

Other homes at risk from fuel poverty, include retired people and guardians looking after small children.

The report also highlights heightened levels of fuel poverty amongst Travellers living in mobile homes/trailer accommodation.

It found that Travellers surveyed spend 21 per cent of their income on fuel costs. People spending more than 10 per cent of their income on fuel are deemed to be in fuel poverty.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Dr Stuart Stamp, the author of the research, said there has been a slight improvement since 2013 in the number of clients suffering fuel poverty, but more needs to be done.

Fuel poverty has long been associated with Ballyfermot.

In 2015, Codema, who undertook a Dublin-wide investigation into energy, identified ten electoral districts most at risk of fuel poverty, two of which were located in Ballyfermot.

Also speaking at the Dublin 10 & 20 MABS report launch at Ballyfermot Civic Centre, were Lord Mayor of Dublin Mícheál MacDonncha, Bill Toner, Minister for State Catherine Byrne and Angela Black, Chief Executive, Citizens Information Board.

Based on their work in the area of fuel poverty from 2013-2017 Dublin 10 & 20 MABS recommend the establishment of a cross agencies/departmental task force, and activation of discretionary powers for community welfare officers to make payments to Travellers living in caravans /mobile homes presenting with exceptional fuel costs/or living in sub-standard accommodation.

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