Huge Rise In Applications For Help With Heating

7 February 2016, 06:14 | Updated: 7 February 2016, 06:32

There has been 50% rise in the number of Scots applying for emergency financial assistance to pay their heating bills.

The Scottish Government has published data on applications for Community Care Grants and Crisis Grants to pay for fuel and heating bills, following a freedom of information request from the Liberal Democrats.

It shows 64,380 Scots received £1.3 million in financial aid in 2014-15 - a 50% rise on the previous year.

Scottish Liberal Democrat housing spokesman Jim Hume MSP said ministers should not rely on emergency grants to counteract the ''lack of action on reducing fuel poverty levels in Scotland''.

He said: ''No-one in Scotland should have to choose between eating and heating, but that's the situation many people are currently faced with.

''The majority of these requests for help were made through crisis grant applicants, which are emergency grants and should of course be available to those who need them.

''But SNP ministers should not rely on them to counteract the fact they are not making much progress on reducing fuel poverty.

''Official statistics recently showed a more than a third of households are suffering fuel poverty and that had been 'no real change' in this rate. The Scottish Government's plans to cut spending on tackling this by 13% won't help one bit in protecting their pockets, tackling associated health problems or achieving our climate change targets.

''People who are fuel poor don't want to listen to the Scottish Government's constant denial on the extent of the problem.

''Instead of turning their heads in the other direction, SNP ministers need to recognise they will miss the November 2016 target for eradicating fuel poverty in Scotland and devise an up-to-date action plan on how to tackle fuel poverty.''

In 2013-14 there were 43,125 applications for these grants with a total worth of £848,565.

In 2014-15 application numbers rose to 64,380 worth £1,317,020.

Crisis grants are used as a safety net ''when someone experiences a disaster or emergency situation, such as a fire or flood and there is an immediate threat to health and safety''.

Community Care Grants ''enable people to live independent or continue to live independently, preventing the need for institutional care. They may also help families facing exceptional pressure.''

Spending on fuel poverty/energy efficiency in 2015-16 was £119 million.

The draft budget for 2016-17 has allocated £103.3 million for this purpose.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ''The Scottish Government is committed to eradicating fuel poverty and has allocated over half a billion pounds since 2009 on a raft of measures to help people in Scotland heat their homes affordably.

''Next year we are making available more than #103 million to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency, which is a significant commitment in light of on-going spending pressures and UK Government cuts and builds on the 900,000 energy efficiency measures delivered since 2008.

''Our record investment is reflected in the big improvements in the energy efficiency of Scotland's housing. The share of homes rated EPC band C and above has increased by 71% since 2010. By comparison, our funding amounts to £103 million more than the UK Government is providing to help people have warm, affordable homes.

`''The fuel poverty rate for 2014 would have been around 9.5% if fuel prices had only risen in line with inflation between 2002 and 2014. All of the increase in fuel poverty since the introduction of the fuel poverty target can be explained by above-inflation energy price increases.''