A Promise Come True

Report by Heike O’Sullivan
Please forgive me for possibly coming across as terribly excited in this month’s report of mine. Amongst all the doom and gloom of dull winter weather (at point of writing, at least), looming Brexit and the disaster that is the massive National Children’s Hospital cost overrun, what has lifted my spirits was a news item that has come to me from – of all places – across the border in West Cork. Gasp!
Regular readers of the Kenmare News may remember me telling you early last year about the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme (BEWHS) which, in our area of South Kerry, is administered by our Bantry based friends, the West Cork Development Partnership (WCDP). Just to remind you, the BEWHS aims to improve the energy efficiency and comfort of homes occupied by low-income households. It is a means tested scheme which covers the entire cost of certain home energy saving measures for qualifying buildings, not just a small percentage grant towards a house owner’s overall cost of improvement works.
Although more than 3,000 West Cork homes (and quite a few South Kerry ones, too) have already benefitted from the BEWHS since 2008, up until recently services under the scheme did not include external wall insulation or internal dry-lining. When I spoke to WCDP’s Finbarr O’Sullivan last year, he told me that the acceptance criteria for eligible houses would likely broaden for 2019. You know what? Our Government has actually kept that very promise. Better one than none, huh? Hence my delight at this dreary time of year.
In a bid to bring more of the country’s older housing stock into the fold, the Government are now also inviting applications from owners of mass concrete and hollow block built houses constructed after 1940 which, obviously, cannot be improved by the likes of cavity wall insulation. Whilst, sadly, stone-built cottages or farm houses such as my own are still excluded from this very successful scheme, the relevant Department and the EU are definitely moving into the right direction and, I suppose, they have to start somewhere.
So, in addition to previously available energy saving measures such as cavity wall and attic insulation, draught proofing, lagging jackets and low energy light, the BEWHS now also covers external wall insulation (with single-glazed window replacement where applicable), internal dry-lining, heating system upgrades where no central heating exists, and mechanical ventilation where necessary. Any or all of these measures are carried out at no cost whatsoever to the qualifying home owner. I would think that many properties in the greater Kenmare area, perhaps particularly owned by elderly persons, could greatly benefit from this fabulous opportunity.
To be eligible for the scheme, you must own and live in your own home which must have been built and occupied before 2006. You must not have received works previously under the BEWHS, and you must be in receipt of one of the following: Fuel Allowance as part of the National Fuel Scheme (for instance as part of the State Pension or Farm Assist); Job Seekers Allowance for over six months and have a child under seven years of age; Working Family Payment; One-Parent Family Payment; Domiciliary Care Allowance; or Carer’s Allowance (and live with the person you are caring for).
If you live anywhere in South Kerry and think you and your home might qualify for the scheme, get in touch with the friendly, dedicated people at Bantry’s WCDP. They will explain all about the scheme to you without using off-putting jargon and will even help you to fill in the application form if you like. When your application is received by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) who organises the works, one of their surveyors will get in touch before calling to your house to assess it. If your home is considered suitable for the scheme, he or she will explain the recommended works to you. Then, a specialised contractor will be appointed, will explain the procedures to be carried out and will complete them according to SEAI regulations and best practice. At the end of it all, you’ll be given the relevant warranties, your house will receive a BER assessment, and you can sit back and enjoy life in a warmer, cheaper to run home. What’s not to like?

For more information, contact West Cork Development Partnership’s Warmer Homes Scheme Team, Finbarr O’Sullivan or Helen Shannon, on 027 52266, call into their office just off Barrack Street, Bantry, or email finbarr@wcdp.ie or helen@wcdp.ie.