More money needed to tackle fuel poverty, study finds

19 June 2018, 06:36


More financial support is needed to help people in fuel poverty in Scotland, a new report has found.

The study by Citizens' Advice Scotland identified groups more likely to struggle to heat their home, including those in rented flats, people in rural areas, younger people and those who use electric heating.

The group which reported most difficulty in heating their home was 45-54 years olds, with 25% saying they had heating problems, compared to 10% of 75-84 year olds.

Tenements were "particularly associated with heating problems" with people in flats and tenements making up 35% of Scopttish households but 42% of those having difficulty heating their homes.

The study also found those most in need of support are those least likely to access it.

Among the recommendations the report makes to address fuel poverty are increasing financial support available to the worst affected, boosting awareness of existing discount and credit schemes among these same households and consdering how targeted support can be better delivered to groups in the greatest need.

CAS also called for the new definition of fuel poverty to include an enhanced minimum income standard for remote rural areas to account for higher living costs, a recommendation put forward by independent academic review into the defninition of fuel poverty but not yet adopted by the Scottish Government.

Latest official figures showed 649,000 households - 26.5% of the total in Scotland - were classed as being in fuel poverty in 2016, meaning they needed to spend at least 10% of their income to keep their properties warm.

CAS Energy spokesman Craig Salter said: "This research give us a vital insight into the real life experiences of those who are defined as fuel poor, and the specific support needs of households in different circumstances.

"It comes at a crucial time, with fuel poverty rates in Scotland still unacceptably high and energy prices continuing to rise at several times the rate of inflation."

He praised the Scottish Government for taking steps to introduce an updated definition of fuel poverty and a new strategy for tackling it, adding: "However for this strategy to succeed, it must reflect the real experiences and support needs of those who are actually in fuel poverty.

"This research points towards some of the key priorities for the successful eradication of fuel poverty.

"These include providing financial support to increase incomes or reduce fuel bills, ensuring that higher living costs in remote rural areas are taken into account and targeting appropriate support at those with the greatest need."

The CAS study was carried out by Ipsos Mori and Alembic Research in 2017.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: "The Scottish Government is determined to tackle fuel poverty and to improve the energy efficiency of Scotland's housing stock and we welcome the fact that almost 100,000 fewer households were in fuel poverty in 2016 compared to the previous year, but we are determined to do more.

"That is why by the end of 2021 we will have allocated over £1 billion toward these twin goals and why we have consulted on a new fuel poverty strategy, definition and target, which will inform a Fuel Poverty Bill to be laid before the Scottish Parliament shortly.

"Our ambitious long-term energy efficiency plan will make Scotland's homes and non-domestic buildings more energy efficient and support around 6,000 jobs.

"Unlike in England, where there is no central Government funding for energy efficiency, we are backing our ambition with more than £146 million Scottish Government funding this year alone to help improve the energy efficiency of Scotland's buildings.

"This is part of a £500 million commitment over the four years to 2021."