Warning cost of living crisis could prove fatal for some in Northern Ireland

As the cost of living crisis deepens, there's still no clarity over when - or how - householders in Northern Ireland will get a £400 government pay-out promised to everyone. 

As many families face the prospect of a bleak winter, poverty campaigners claim that the rising costs of food and energy will threaten the health of the most vulnerable in our community. 

Ellen Moore is 62 and a leukaemia patient.

Simply keeping healthy and warm is a challenge, but the cost of living crisis has turned this Londonderry grandmother into a protester and a campaigner.

"I've got four sons and two grandchildren and I'm worried about what the winter is going to bring for them, about what the future is going to bring for my grandchildren," she said.

"At the end of the day this is affecting everybody, nobody's escaping this and you've nowhere to hide."I really did not think that at my age and with the health conditions that I have, that I'd be walking the streets of Derry campaigning at the cost of living."As the days go by, the prices we pay for food, fuel, and other goods keep rising.Sinéad Quinn is a member of the protest group Derry Against Fuel Poverty.

She relies solely on gas heating but is scared to turn it on.

"I haven't had the gas heating on since last March," she told UTV.

"Effectively I'm disconnecting from the supply because I know I'm being priced out of that market."Sinéad believes this crisis will have serious implications for health, especially for those who are isolated or those currently experiencing health problems.

"People who were already at risk because of their financial situation, they could lose their homes, they could lose their cars, and ultimately people could lose their lives."There's little doubt that people are already suffering and often it is the most vulnerable in our community.

Downing Street has promised a £400 payment to help with costs, but we still don't know when or even how it will be delivered in Northern Ireland.There have been suggestions from the DUP that the £400 government payment could be made through the Rates system, but the Department of Finance says that's a non-starter.

UTV understands such a scheme would be complex, and it would require special legislation because Land & Property Services - the agency that administers the Rates system - is designed to take money, not give it out. 

An added problem would be that around a third of such payments would miss out families in need and instead go to their landlords.The DUP's Edwin Poots MLA says alternative systems could be put in place: "A voucher scheme, for instance, would allow people to spend a £400 voucher with whatever energy company they wish, be it oil, gas or whatever form of energy they're utilising."The SDLP, though, says we're past the point where action is needed.

The party's Foyle representative Mark H. Durkan MLA says: "Action isn't needed now. Action was needed a year ago and we haven't seen it. We did have an Executive then and we didn't see anything from them."Stormont still shows no sign of recovening and Downing Street's focus is dominated by the contest to be the next Prime Minister.It may be summertime, but families are bracing themselves for the chill wind of this financial crisis, and the prospect of a difficult winter whose plummeting temperatures may well match the public mood.