Northern Ireland households to receive £200 energy subsidy

Stormont agrees £55m scheme to support about 280,000 people with rising costs

The Stormont Executive has agreed a £55 million scheme to subsidise households badly hit by rising energy costs.

A one-off payment of £200 will be made automatically to around 280,000 eligible people in receipt of specified benefits.

The payment will be administered by the UK department of work and pensions and made through existing payment channels, without the need for an application.

People will be eligible for payments from the energy scheme if during the qualifying week of Monday, December 13th to Sunday, December 19th, they were in receipt of one or more of the following benefits: pension credit, universal credit, income-related employment and support allowance, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, or income support.


Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey said she hoped the first payments in the energy scheme would reach bank accounts in February.

She said: “This will be a direct payment of £200 that will go into 281,000 bank accounts.

“You don’t have to apply, there will be no application process, it will be an automatic payment.”

First Minister Paul Givan said it would be March at the latest when the payments arrive.

Ms Hargey said: “Huge hikes in energy prices have placed even more pressure on people who are already struggling this winter.

“That’s why I am providing a one-off payment of £200 to support those people and families who, without additional support, may struggle to heat their homes or pay their energy bills.

“I know the impact that rising global energy prices are having on people on low incomes and I have secured this funding in order to protect people from the worst impacts.

Mr Givan said: “We’ve signed off on a £55 million scheme and that will be to help people because we know the rising costs of energy over the past year has placed a significant burden upon people and people have faced the very real choice of eating or heating.”

Prices with several gas providers in Northern Ireland have risen more than 20 per cent in recent months.

Ms Hargey added: “My department continues to offer a range of support to assist vulnerable people on low incomes who are in fuel poverty.

“This includes schemes to help improve the energy efficiency of their homes, as well as Cold Weather and Winter Fuel Payments and Discretionary Support.

“This funding is vital in providing further financial support to help vulnerable people meet their energy costs and to supporting people in maintaining their physical and mental health and wellbeing.”

Ms Hargey said the new scheme would be “particularly targeted at those on means-tested benefits, so the lowest income families that are being impacted by the cost of living crisis and the global fuel increases that we are seeing across the board”.

“The Executive wants to do everything that it can in terms of mitigating against the worst impacts and indeed this scheme will be a valuable contribution on top of the other schemes that we have been doing.”

“Obviously I just got the permission today from the Executive that I am the department which will take the lead on making those payments.

“I now have to lay draft affirmative legislation that gives me the power to do that.

“As soon as I can get that done we are engaging with the Department for Work and Pensions, who will manually make these payments in their computer systems.

But A DUP MLA said the scheme "doesn't meet the needs of many people suffering from fuel poverty". North Down representative Stephen Dunne said: "The communities minister has been floundering for some time on tackling fuel poverty.

“Her initial scheme has been shambolic, and whilst this scheme will provide additional help it excludes many families who are struggling due to rocketing energy prices.

“Using criteria based solely on an individual’s receipt of other benefits excludes many working families.

“It will also see some households receive multiple payments whilst many others miss out entirely.

“The families who are sometimes referred to as the ‘squeezed middle’ continually miss out on multiple layers of support when eligibility is linked to other benefits rather than their assessed need.” – PA