Shetland MSP, Beatrice Wishart, and Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, have today written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions calling on her to take direct action to resolve disruption to Winter Fuel Payments and the system’s helpline. The helpline, intended to support elderly recipients of the Winter Fuel Payment, was disrupted for several weeks, with caseworkers, the Citizens Advice Bureau and constituents unable to get through to support workers in case of problems with their payment and no explanation from the Government on the reasons for delays to payments.
The action by the Northern Isles representatives continues their ongoing campaign with Ofgem to highlight a recent uptick in energy costs and poor service by companies in the isles.
Commenting on the letter, Ms Wishart said:
“The Winter Fuel Payment is a lifeline for many older islanders needing support to keep their homes heated and so it is astonishing that DWP let the helpline be disrupted for so long and with no explanation. In the middle of winter if there are issues with the payment scheme then people need to have confidence that they can get those issues sorted quickly. Warm homes are not negotiable.
“I understand that some government services may be disrupted by the pandemic, but this is one measure that really ought to be in place and working, particularly as the advice is for vulnerable people to stay at home.”
Mr Carmichael added:
“We have given more than enough patience to the Government to get this issue sorted. It is time for Secretary of State to take an active interest and make sure that the system is back in order so that eligible islanders can keep their heating going through the rest of the winter. Given the problems raised already in our campaign with Ofgem on energy costs, it is vital that ministers get on top of these basic issues.”