30/11/2010

Freezing Conditions Trigger Cold Weather Cash

The Social Security Agency will now pay special cold weather allowances to qualifying customers in NI after the severe cold weather triggered the first of this winter's Cold Weather Payments.

This cash is available when the average temperature is recorded or forecast to be zero degrees Celsius, or below, for a period of seven consecutive days.

A total of £1.3million will be paid to people who qualify for the payment in postcode areas covered by the Met Office's Castlederg, Glenanne and Katesbridge weather stations.

The postcode areas affected are BT24-26, 30-35, 60-71, 78-79 and 81-82. Customers can expect to receive their payment on Wednesday 1 December.

Social Development Minister, Alex Attwood, said: "This £25 payment is a help for people in need, especially at a time when they are facing uncertainty over how the UK Government will support them in the future.
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"As the temperature continues to fall it is important that we do all we can to make sure that those most in need in Northern Ireland are kept warm and comfortable in their homes."

However, only those qualifying customers living in these postcodes will receive the £25 payment.

Yesterday, an MLA and Stormont Junior Minister, Robin Newton commented on the wintry conditions: "Reports highlighting needless pensioner deaths over winter cold periods and the potential for an increase in the number of deaths due to the economic downturn are very worrying.

"I would urge all senior citizens to make certain they are getting all the allowances they are entitled to; ensure they get their flu jab from the doctor; eat a warm meal each day; reduce energy costs as much as possible by closing doors keeping one room warm and wrap up well before going out," said the east Belfast DUP politician, who also urged neighbours to "spare a few minutes by popping next door to check on older people - it could also save a life", he concluded.

Meanwhile, schools in many parts of Northern Ireland are again closed today as a result of the severe weather conditions which have swept the country.

(BMcC/GK)

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