Deirdre Hargey has said the unprecedented rise in the cost of energy requires an “immediate response”.
The Emergency Fuel Payment Scheme, which aims to benefit 20,000 families, will open from January 6 and will run until March 31.
Ms Hargey said: “The unprecedented energy price rises have meant that those who are already struggling financially are facing added pressures during the winter months and there is therefore a need for an immediate response.
“This additional funding is vital in providing emergency financial support to vulnerable families to meet their energy costs and where it is essential to protect people’s mental health and physical wellbeing.
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“The scheme is an excellent example of government working together with private companies and the voluntary and community sector to benefit those in need of support in the time ahead.”
Consumer Council chief executive Noyona Chundur welcomed the scheme.
She said: “We are delighted to have facilitated the establishment of a scheme that will help ease the heavy burden of energy price rises for 20,000 households this winter.
“We welcome the substantial financial support provided by the Department for Communities, the operational expertise provided by Bryson Charitable Group, and the practical and financial support provided by 11 companies from across the energy sector who have pledged over £250,000 in donations to the scheme.
“We hope this will lead to future collaboration between government, regulators, consumer advocacy bodies, and the energy sector on initiatives to tackle the causes of fuel poverty.”
Ulster Unionist Party communities spokesman Andy Allen also welcomed the scheme, but called for the roll-out to be speeded up.
He said: “I welcome the allocation of £2 million in funding for an emergency fuel payment scheme – something colleagues and I have been calling to be made available for months.
“I would also commend the consortium of organisations for stepping forward to provide this much-needed support.
“It is imperative this scheme is promptly operational and, where possible, before the 6th of January 2022 as many individuals and families need this support now – in fact, they needed it weeks ago.”
He added: “Furthermore, £55 million was identified to provide support; however, to date, there has been no confirmation whether this was approved by the Executive at their meeting before Christmas.
“I would therefore again call on the Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey, to clarify whether her department received the full £55 million requested and if so what further support will be made available and when.”
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