Kieran McCarthy said: “I know it is hard to think about coal prices when we are having such warm weather that but when the winter months come around this price rise will hit the most vulnerable the hardest.
“Many old people stated last winter that they were spending nearly all their money on fuel bills, so this winter will be a nightmare for them. The only solution is to increase the winter fuel allowance to keep up with prices. Northern Ireland has generally had higher fuel prices that the rest of the UK so I would urge the Minister for Social Development to ensure that any rise in the winter fuel poverty allowance takes this into account.
“Last winter some households even faced the question as to whether they should pay for food or fuel as they could not afford both. Something must be done about this.
“This price rise only increases the need to move faster to end fuel poverty throughout Northern Ireland. Hopefully the Minister will return to her original goal of ending fuel poverty in the most vulnerable households by 2015 rather than the current goal of eradicating it in 9,000 homes annually. The Minister’s current goal will take longer and is not specifically aimed at the vulnerable.”