The Commissioner for Seniors recently hosted a meeting with Finance Minister Conor Murphy, MLA, to express his growing concern about the severe impact of the cost of living crisis on seniors.
The Commissioner and Minister were joined by a number of representatives from seniors’ groups in the Causeway area, to discuss their concerns about the challenges they are facing due to rising energy costs and food, a situation that is expected to worsen over the coming winter months. .
Eddie Lynch said: “I welcome the opportunity to meet Minister Murphy today to highlight the growing fears of older people as we enter the winter months. There are seniors here today speaking directly to the minister about the growing impact of the cost of living crisis on their daily lives. The concerns raised are issues that I have heard regularly from seniors over the past year. There is genuine fear of rising food and energy bills, and extreme worry about how they will cope with heating their homes and being able to eat in the colder months of the year.
Many older people are already unable to pay their spiraling bills and with no end in sight for energy price increases, many are having to make a terrible choice between eating or heating their homes. I am extremely concerned about the impact this will inevitably have on their health and well-being. Lives are clearly at risk this winter and we need additional financial assistance for those most at risk.
The Commissioner continued: “It is essential that the £400 energy payment already pledged is delivered as soon as possible so that people can get this help when they need it. But this payment does not go far enough, additional financial support is desperately needed if people are to get through this winter safely. Citizens of Northern Ireland are already disadvantaged by not benefiting from the Warm Home Discount Scheme in Britain, so something similar is due to be introduced here too soon.
Representatives of various community groups supporting older people in the Causeway area were present at the meeting to express the concern they are seeing first hand.
Ciara Forsythe, community navigator for Causeway and Moyle expressed her concerns:
“The current situation unfolding before all of us is one of absolute fear and devastation. In the community of Causeway and Moyle, we are facing an unprecedented increase in the number of older people who self-harm and deteriorating mental health. This is a direct result of covid and the cost of living crisis.
People already can’t afford rent and food and heating and with the temperatures dropping and prices rising I’m really scared what’s going to happen or how they’re going to hold up until that payment of 400 £ is made and even then it is nowhere near enough. Many organizations are doing their best to provide on-the-ground support to those who need it, but we are just sticking band-aids to a much larger problem. I really hope that Minister Murphy will champion our cause to bring about positive change for the people of Northern Ireland.
I would add that if you are worried or concerned, please do not remain alone in silence, contact one of the teams in your area, the community navigator, the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, local resource centers, citizens’ advice, food banks, community refrigerators, even your local MPs and community associations. We are all here to help you and you are never alone.
In response to concerns raised at the Finance Minister’s meeting, Conor Murphy added:
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to meet the Commissioner for the Elderly and the Elderly. Unfortunately, yesterday’s announcement by the government in Westminster does not provide the support that citizens desperately need. It is also disappointing that there has been no update on when households here can expect to receive their £400 payment for the energy bill support scheme.
“Along with my counterparts in Scotland and Wales, I continue to press the government in Westminster to take urgent action to provide much needed certainty to those suffering hardship and poverty.”