Last week I raised the number of people waiting on the Warmer Homes Scheme list and urged the Department of Environment, Climate Change & Communications to progress these applications as a matter of urgency.
There is a distinct chill in the air. Thankfully, it is not a political chill but an actual chill. It is promised for the week, with snow forecast for later in the week. While I welcome the increase in the fuel allowance announced by the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, the €3.50 increase to €28 per week from 1 January, I acknowledge we have to look out for elderly people in particular during this cold snap.
The warmer homes scheme is important for those who qualified for the provision of attic, cavity wall and external wall insulation. The budget has been increased this year, up to €221 million for residential and community retrofit programmes. The increase has come from the carbon tax. I received correspondence from a constituent regarding the warmer homes scheme. I have been told their application for the scheme was generated on 28 June 2019. The status of the application is awaiting surveyor allocation. We have seen a large increase in applications to the warmer homes scheme over the past 12 months. This has lead to a significant increase in demand. Covid-19 had an impact between March and June of last year. However, more than one and a half years after submitting the application, no surveyor has been allocated. I ask the Leader to contact the Minister and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, about these delays.
We all want to see a transition to a low carbon economy. It is worthwhile having a debate on this area, because it is something we all agree on, and on how we engage with people. We see from data provided by the Western Development Commission over the last number of weeks the number of homes in the west that still have to burn coal, oil and peat as their main source of fuel for central heating because they have no choice. This whole area is worthy of a larger debate.