Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action, Darren O’Rourke TD, today said the new National Retrofit Plan fails the equity test and called on government to introduce changes to target financial support for workers and families who need it.
The Meath East TD said:
“It is very clear the new National Retrofit Plan significantly benefits those with means and prioritises ability to pay over need.
“Taxpayer funded grants should be targeted to provide financial assistance to workers and families who need help paying for energy upgrades.
“However, no income cap or sliding scale of grants was built into this scheme and it offers the same financial help to a millionaire as it does to a worker earning the average industrial wage. It’s a total failure when it comes to equity.
“A parliamentary reply I received yesterday stated that ‘imposing new additional income limits and means testing were not considered as part of the design of the new upgrade scheme’.
“It is hard to believe this idea, which would make the €8 billion scheme more progressive, wasn’t even considered.
“A fairer scheme would have also prioritised the most vulnerable households and ensured their homes were retrofitted first.
“The Warmer Homes Scheme, the programme aimed at the elderly, people with disabilities and those on the lowest incomes, already has a 26-month waiting list.
“There is no detail now the government intends to reduce this waiting time and there is a real prospect that the expansion of other schemes, the One Stop Shop Scheme, for example, will serve to increase competition for contractors and could result in these waits getting even longer.
“A new tightening of the eligibility criteria for the Warmer Home Scheme (now known as Free Energy Upgrades) will also see thousands of vulnerable households now excluded.
“Previously, if your house was built before 2006 and you met the other criteria such as being in receipt of the Working Family Payment or Carers Allowance, you would qualify for the Free Energy Upgrade scheme.
“However, the small print in the new National Retrofit Scheme has changed this to houses built prior to 1993. Therefore, those elderly people, carers or people on lower incomes living in homes built since 1993 have become ineligible for this scheme, overnight.
“We need a national retrofitting programme. We need it to improve the fabric of people’s homes and the quality of their health and lives and to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels for heat.
“However, it is essential we do this in an equitable and progressive manner. The government’s plan fails in this regard.”