Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe has urged the government to stand up for vulnerable families hit by the cost of living crisis by ensuring that households are protected from electricity and gas disconnections this winter.

Teachta Crowe said:

“Households are facing massive electricity bills this winter. People have been hit by a barrage of hikes over the last eighteen months and are worried sick about whether they can keep on top of these bills that keep increasing.

“October’s bill will land shortly and many people’s finances simply won’t stretch enough to cover the cost.

“The government’s refusal to reduce and cap electricity prices at pre crisis levels is a big mistake. It leaves hard pressed vulnerable households wide open to further hikes and to the possibility of disconnection. As families face a long winter, they worry that they won’t be able to afford to keep their lights on.

“The government’s plan to introduce a ban on disconnections from December until February falls far short of what is needed. Many people can’t wait until December. They need the assurance and to be protected from disconnection now.

“I am urging the government to introduce an immediate ban on disconnections now and to run that ban right through to the end of March for all households across the state.

“I am also concerned that the government has failed to give any certainty to the many people who use pre-pay electricity meters. Once their €20 emergency credit runs out, pre-pay customers are disconnected by default. Yet, the government still has no real plan to protect these households. It isn’t good enough.

“The Taoiseach said yesterday that the CRU is looking at waiving the fees for vulnerable customers to change to bill pay – but that is medically vulnerable people only, not those in financial hardship. The fees to switch to bill pay should be waived for all customers.

“Many suppliers can extend an additional credit, sometimes called a ‘friendly credit’ at weekends and public holidays to prevent disconnections. To protect pre-pay customers, this ‘friendly credit’ should be extended on a 24/7 basis for the duration of the ban on disconnections.

“The government can and must do much more to protect people from spiralling energy costs. The cost of living crisis is unprecedented and people need certainty that their bills will be affordable.

“This is an unprecedented crisis. The government needs to ensure that all households are protected from disconnection.

“The government must ensure there is ban on disconnections for all customers now and until the end of March.”