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Tackling fuel poverty

10/10/2008

A new Energy Assistance Package which includes advice on energy tariffs, a benefits and tax credit check, and energy efficiency improvements for those struggling most to heat their homes and pay their energy bills is the key recommendation of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum.

The Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum today published its report 'Towards 2016 - The Future of Fuel Poverty Policy in Scotland' following a thorough review of current policy and programmes which have an impact on fuel poverty.

There is a statutory commitment on the Scottish Government to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016 and in May 2008, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon tasked the forum of stakeholders and its independent chair, Rev Graham Blount, with producing a strategy that made the most effective use of existing resources.

The Forum's approach to producing the strategy was holistic and considered all contributory factors such as energy efficiency and energy use, energy prices and tariffs, and incomes. It also aimed to maximise funding from different sources by developing synergies between them and, given funding constraints, to direct assistance where it would make the most impact.

While the Forum recognised that significant steps had been taken towards tackling fuel poverty in recent years, it concluded that the time was right to modify the approach taken. It therefore proposes the Energy Assistance Package to include advice on tariffs to address the energy prices people pay, a benefit and tax credit check to maximise their income, and an energy audit with follow up to provide physical means of reducing their energy use.

However, the Forum warns that this package alone will not achieve the 2016 target. In addition, it believes a step change in investment as soon as possible is required. The UK Government, Scottish Government, energy companies and others must also continue to work together (including the energy efficiency package announced by the Prime Minister last month).

Rev Graham Blount, independent Chair of the Fuel Poverty Forum said:

"Many people will view the coming winter with trepidation about their fuel bills. Governments, energy companies and others need to join up their action to tackle this; that is why the Forum puts forward a joined-up package to focus resources on those in most difficulty, where we urgently need to make a difference. It won't solve the problem, but could be a big step along the way to the 2016 target."

Norman Kerr, Director of Energy Action Scotland said:

"Energy Action Scotland has been a full and active participant in the recently reformed Fuel Poverty Forum and we believe that the recommendations contained within the report will help refocus the Scottish Government's effort in tackling fuel poverty. We believe that there is much still to do but this refocusing will be a significant step to providing help to those vulnerable households who for too long have had little support. Energy Action Scotland looks forward to continuing its work on the Forum and believes that the Forum has a significant role to play in the fight to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016."

Elizabeth Duncan, Director of Help the Aged in Scotland and David Manion, Chief Executive of Age Concern Scotland) said:

"The proposed Energy Assistance Package offers the most effective way to tackle fuel poverty within the current budget. The package offers greater benefits to the many fuel poor older households than the current programmes do as the greatest assistance would be directed to those in greatest need. However, to fully tackle fuel poverty in time for the 2016 fuel poverty target a significant increase in funding needs to be made."

Speaking on behalf of the Scottish Children's Fuel Poverty coalition John Dickie said:

"The Package recommended in this Report would benefit some of our most vulnerable children by ensuring many more families get the substantial energy efficiency improvements needed to reduce the devastating impact of rocketing bills. It should also ensure advice on energy tariffs and maximizing incomes reaches hard pressed families across Scotland. We look forward to seeing the recommendations acted upon, including the 'step change' in investment needed to make sure that in future no family has to make impossible choices between paying energy bills, buying food or getting into debt."

Kaliani Lyle, CEO, Citizens Advice Scotland:

"The CAB service sees increasing numbers of people struggling with their fuel bills. We hope the Scottish Government will heed the findings of this report and recognise the urgent need to allocate more resources to tackling the dreadful scourge of fuel poverty."

Peter Kelly, Director, The Poverty Alliance:

"The Fuel Poverty Forum was given the challenging task of advising the Scottish Government on new approaches to help reach the 2016 target for ending Fuel Poverty within the current budget constraints. The Poverty Alliance believes that the recommendations in this report will go a long way to helping achieve that goal, ensuring that people vulnerable people are able to access the help they need. We hope all the recommendations will be implemented and that the proposed step change in funding is acted upon. Without this, the 2016 target may be challenge that we are unable to meet."

Mike Thornton, Director, Scotland, for the Energy Saving Trust said:

"The Energy Saving Trust very much welcomes this report with its integrated and comprehensive approach to fuel poverty in Scotland, including maximising energy efficiency measures for the fuel poor as the best way of future-proofing against increasing fuel prices."

Chas Booth from the Association for the Conservation of Energy said:

"A step-change in the energy efficiency of our homes is needed if we are to tackle the twin scourges of fuel poverty and climate change. This report sets out the first steps that Ministers must take in order to achieve that change. We hope that Ministers will give these recommendations careful consideration when making future policy and spending decisions."

Stephen Cunningham, Chair, Scottish HECA Officers Network said:

"In this report the Forum has agreed to propose practical measures and a holistic Energy Assistance Package that would provide a simple and clear approach for vulnerable and fuel poor people to get the practical help and advice they need and provides clear direction for current investment. There is a clear focus on energy efficiency maximisation, which is the best way to reduce any household's fuel poverty while helping to reduce carbon emissions. We do however also recognise that while the report shows the shape of the solution, it also shows that the scale of funding will have to change for it to meet the 2016 target."

Cllr Harry McGuigan, COSLA Spokesperson for Community Well-being and Safety said:

"I welcome the report of the Fuel Poverty Forum; as a member of the forum COSLA were keen to see recommendations that address both income maximisation, pricing and energy efficiency. We all want a plan that helps relieve the immediate effects of fuel poverty but equally we need to be taking a long view in terms of energy efficiency as a way of guarding against long term fuel poverty and doing our bit for the fight against climate change at the same time by reducing our dependency on fuel."

Jacqui Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, said:

"Fuel poverty affects the most vulnerable groups in society and measures need to be taken urgently if an increasing number of people are not to endure a miserable winter. We would like to see the discrepancy between pre-paid meters and direct debit payment methods removed so that the poorest are not being hit the hardest in terms of payment. We would also like to see social tariffs made more widely available."

Russell Ogg of Scottish and Southern Energy said:

"SSE is pleased that the proposed Energy Assistance Package has been agreed. It will provide an agenda for closer working between many interested parties in helping the most vulnerable people in Scotland. The key priority was to devise practical and specific improvements to Scottish Government actions in this area and the Energy Assistance Package is an excellent basis on which to move forward."

Phil Bentley, Managing Director of Scottish Gas said:

"Scottish Gas takes seriously its responsibilities towards our vulnerable customers. This report makes an important contribution to addressing fuel poverty and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government as it considers and takes forward to findings of the Fuel Poverty Forum."

Jim Paterson, Sales and Marketing Director, Scottish Power "Scottish Power is pleased to contribute to the forum and its report. We welcome the opportunity to continue to work with the Scottish Government on its fuel poverty strategy which we believe must take cognisance of the need to invest more in energy efficiency and income maximisation. This will empower people to stay out of fuel poverty in the long term"

The Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum is chaired independently by Rev Graham Blount and the following organisations are members:

  • Age Concern Scotland
  • Children's Fuel Poverty Coalition
  • Citizens Advice Scotland
  • COSLA
  • Energy Action Scotland
  • Energy Saving Trust
  • Energywatch
  • Friends of the Earth Scotland and Association for the Conservation of Energy
  • Help the Aged
  • OFGEM (as observers)
  • Poverty Alliance
  • Scottish and Southern Energy
  • Scottish Gas
  • Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
  • Scottish Power
  • Shelter

The Scottish Home Energy Conservation Act Officers Network 3. On May 22, 2008, Health and Wellbeing Cabinet Secretary Nicola Sturgeon announced that the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum, chaired by Rev Graham Blount, would be asked to develop proposals for the reform of fuel poverty programmes within existing budgets.