The Committee for Social Development is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Belfast Agreement, section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and under Standing Order 48. The Committee has 11 members including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson and a quorum of 5.
The Department for Social Development has a central role in tackling fuel poverty. That lead role continues today but it is recognised that there is need for a more collaborative, cross-departmental and cross-sectoral approach in order to address fuel poverty.
Recent statistics indicate that the excess winter mortality index in NI is around 15-20% in most years. While these deaths cannot be wholly attributable to fuel poverty it is undeniable that not being able to afford to heat one’s home is a contributing factor to ill-health and has potentially life-threatening implications for older people. Based on the most recent Surgeon General’s Annual Report for Northern Ireland it can be estimated that there have been 1,890 excess winter deaths in the last decade which are directly attributable to people living in cold and damp homes (Morris & Liddell, 2011).44.
It was in this context that the Committee decided to host a stakeholder event to focusspecifically on potential solutions to fuel poverty. The Committee therefore decided to invite officials from each of these departments to attend the event to summarise their department’s role in addressing fuel poverty and to take part in discussions with stakeholders.