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Help with fuel bills

13/01/2010

Ten thousand more families are to get help to save around £900 a year on fuel bills through the Scottish Government's Energy Assistance Package.

Central heating systems, home insulation, thermostats and green energy devices will be on offer to low-income families with children under 16.

Families who receive a wide range of benefits including child tax credit, income support and housing benefit will be eligible.

The Fuel Poverty Forum - set up by the Scottish Government to look at ways to tackle fuel poverty - has also been asked by Ministers to investigate extending eligibility to chronically ill and cancer patients in Scotland.

The scheme's national free phone helpline number - 0800 512 012 - provides instant energy savings advice to everyone who calls, as well as help to switch to cheaper tariffs and get all the benefits households are entitled to.

Households who had heating and insulation devices installed by the scheme last year saved on average 860 pounds on fuel bills. Households who moved to cheaper tariffs and payment methods saved on average nearly 300 pounds a year.

Housing and Communities Minister Alex Neil said:

"The help available through our £60 million scheme is providing real help to bring down fuel bills so we're opening it up so that many more households can benefit.

"With rising fuel prices and bitterly cold weather like we've just had, we know it's not just the elderly that will struggle with their heating costs.

"We estimate that by opening up the help available, 10,000 more families will benefit from help to make their homes more energy efficient and cut their bills by hundreds of pounds.

"It's important that we give all the support we can to those effected by severe illness and who may therefore be struggling with fuel costs too - we've asked the Fuel Poverty Forum to investigate what we can do in this area and we'll be considering their recommendations as a matter of priority."

John Dickie of the Children's Fuel Poverty Coalition in Scotland said:

"This extension of support to help more struggling families heat their homes is very welcome. Tackling fuel poverty amongst families is an important part of the drive to eradicate child poverty once and for all. No child should ever have to be cold at home.

"However we should not be complacent. The key challenge is to ensure that families who are now eligible are aware of this new support and take advantage of it. There's still much to do to ensure that all fuel poor families are supported if fuel poverty is to be eradicated."

Director of the Poverty Alliance Peter Kelly said:

"This extension of the Energy Assistance Package is welcome and a step in the right direction. This winter in particular will be a very real struggle for families young and old to heat their homes.

"There is a real and pressing need to continue to work to ensure that more low income households are supported if the target to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016 is to be achieved."

Trisha McAuley, Interim Senior Director of Consumer Focus Scotland, said:

"Scotland leads the way in the UK in having an holistic and targeted approach to directing energy efficiency advice and practical help to those who need it most.

"The Scottish Government is to be commended for committing the Energy Assistance Package to further review and widening its reach to those who need it most. The Fuel Poverty Forum will continue to review and refine the package in the future."