After attending the launch of Warm, Safe, Connected by St. Vincent De Paul (SVP), we were devastated to learn of the far-reaching consequences that the current energy crisis has had across Ireland. We felt the need to share some of the more shocking statistics that may have had a profound impact on our members.
In 2022, SVP Received 230,000 requests for assistance from the public – up to 1200 requests per day in busy periods (December). People requested assistance on more than one issue, most often being the combination of food and energy. The report highlights the connection between energy and people’s health such as the stress and anxiety over the difficulty in meeting costs as well as sacrificing heating in order to feed the family, and vice versa.
Energy Poverty is not evenly distributed, with some groups being more heavily impacted than others. This includes older people, members of minority groups and people living alone.
Deputy TD Neasa Hourigan acknowledged the inadequacy of one-off payments and the realisation that targeted and forward-thinking measures are needed. She admitted that Government is resistant to systemic change which locks the Government in to something that is “progressive and something that is real”. Questions were raised around the legislative definition of a “vulnerable customer”, suggesting this should be broadened to consider circumstantial and contextual factors.
Nat O’Connor of Age Action highlighted the impact of the energy crisis on older people who rely on a fixed income with a spending power that has depreciated significantly due to inflation. In the first half of 2022 (before the latest rise in inflation), 1 in 14 older persons went without heating at some point, with 1 in 16 older persons being unable to afford to keep their home sufficiently warm. He noted that multiple reports indicate that Ireland has the highest rate of Excess Winter Mortality in Europe due to a damp climate, long heating season and poorly insulated housing which has been compounded by the current energy crisis.
Some of the recommendations made by SVP to combat this crisis include benchmarking social welfare rates, retrofitting support for inadequate housing, improving measures to avoid disconnections and increasing the eligibility criteria of ‘vulnerable customers’.