March 20, 2023
MacManus calls for emergency mind-set to tackle energy poverty

MacManus calls for emergency mind-set to tackle energy poverty
 
Chris MacManus, MEP for the Midlands Northwest, has called for an emergency mind-set to tackle energy poverty. MacManus made his comments after a meeting with Karina Timothy, Regional Coordinator, and John Toolan, Information Support Officer, from the West Regional Office of the St Vincent de Paul in Galway, alongside his Sinn Féin colleague Mairéad Farrell TD. “SVP’s team explained the staggering increases in demand for their services; a 19% increase in calls for service altogether, and a 24% increase in first-time callers. A lot more working families now need support from SVP, and requests for help are getting larger. This on-the-ground experience shows how the cost of living crisis is pushing more and more people into poverty – this is a scandal in one the supposedly wealthiest countries in the EU.”
 
“Following up on SVP’s recent report revealing the extent of energy poverty in Ireland, I asked John and Karina about their experiences of the energy crisis when offering their services. SVP has managed to get support from energy companies to help maintain people’s energy supply, but the costs of this solution are significant. On top of this, they highlighted problems that people have with switching their energy provider online, and moving away from more expensive prepay meters. People are losing heat through energy inefficient housing and the SEAI grants are not effective in addressing this for low-income households.”
 
“SVP are calling for the benchmarking of social welfare payments to keep up with the cost of living. A Sinn Féin government would increase social welfare rates to the Minimum Essential Standard of Living and implement a Living Wage to ensure that work pays. SVP also recommends measures to protect those struggling to pay their energy bills, such as a social energy tariff, better measures to avoid disconnection and support for households that have accumulated debt on their bills. The government needs to make sure that these and other tools are at their disposal to tackle the full extent of this emergency.”
 
“For example, this week the European Commission proposed some reforms of the EU’s electricity market in an effort to better control prices in the future. These include measures to protect vulnerable customers, such as disconnection bans and fixed price rates. However, the EU’ Electricity Directive leaves it up to national governments to decide who falls under the definition of ‘vulnerable customer’, and in Ireland this only applies to the elderly and those with specific medical needs. A clear first step would be to expand this definition to include low-income households and those at risk of energy poverty, in order to increase the protections offered to these groups.”
 
MacManus concluded, “We need an emergency mind-set to tackle energy poverty and the cost-of-living crisis. During the pandemic, we saw what can be done when the political will exists to take public control of essential services, provide emergency supports to those struggling and to implement measures that stand in the way of corporate profits. This emergency approach must be applied to ensure the right to energy for all.”
 
See attached photo of (L-R): Chris MacManus MEP, John Toolan, Karina Timothy and Mairéad Farrell TD at the SVP Office in Galway

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