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Independent fuel poverty report recommends review of definition.
The definition of fuel poverty is to be reviewed to ensure help is targeted at those who need it most.
This is one of over 100 recommendations, made in two reports published today, to address the issue of fuel poverty which will now be considered in full by Ministers.
The Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group and Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force reports were published alongside a Scottish Government research paper on the likelihood of being fuel poor in rural Scotland. This is to help identify and target households in rural Scotland who have a high risk of being in fuel poverty.
The Strategic Working Group has made 4 high level recommendations, including that a new, community-based approach to tackling fuel poverty is developed. The Group has also concluded that the current definition of fuel poverty may be impeding efforts to target those most in need. It has therefore recommended that an independent academic review be commissioned to ensure that help is targeted at those who need it most; this will undoubtedly help solve the problem of fuel poverty.
The Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force sets out 3 guiding principles to help the Scottish Government deliver its fuel poverty and energy efficiency programmes.
Other recommendations from both independent reports include:
- that future programmes have a very specific objective to deal quickly with hard to treat and other poorly performing housing stock occupied by the most financially disadvantaged;
- 'rural proofing' the government's approach to tackling fuel poverty;
- the UK Government to work with Ofgem to ensure regulation of the GB energy market addresses fuel poverty; and
- promotion and support of initiatives by new electricity providers to provide the highest quality energy price and customer care services to prepayment meter consumers.
Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said:
"Everyone should be able to heat their home and keep themselves and their families warm, therefore tackling and eradicating fuel poverty is vital and we must make sure action we are taking is making a difference to those that need it most.
"The advice is clear that the current definition is unhelpful in ensuring support is delivered to those who need it most. That is why, I will take immediate and decisive action to take forward the recommendation on reviewing the definition of fuel poverty and set up the expert independent review called for. However I am clear that I will not define away the problem and the changes must be justified to ensure that those in need receive the most support.
"We are committed to eradicating fuel poverty. Since 2008 over one million energy efficiency measures have been installed in almost one million households across Scotland which has helped make homes warmer and easier to heat. We will build on this by investing half a billion pounds over the next four years to continue tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency.
"Over 100 recommendations have been made, many of which are complex and have wider implications that must be considered alongside other policies. All of this cannot happen immediately but both reports are a good first step in informing our new fuel poverty strategy and we will respond fully in due course.
"I would like to thank Professor David Sigsworth OBE, Mr Di Alexander and the members of both groups for their work in producing these reports."
David Sigsworth, Chair of the Scottish Fuel poverty Strategic Working Group, said:
"The independent group was tasked with developing a vision for the eradication of fuel poverty in Scotland, with the main output being a report outlining a new fuel poverty programme.
"The report explores why current programmes have failed to eradicate fuel poverty and concludes that experience over many years has shown that energy efficiency improvements, whilst important, are not enough. Recent increases in underlying costs of fossil fuel, due to devaluation, will exacerbate this situation.
"The group recommends a bold new approach, based on four high level principles, to deliver affordable and attainable warmth and energy use for everyone in Scotland.
"The new policy should be firmly based on the principle of social justice and use new devolved social security powers to address well-known unfairness in current provisions. It must also go beyond improving energy performance of homes and put equal emphasis on the other three drivers of fuel poverty - income, energy costs, and how energy is used in the home. The report makes detailed recommendations in each of these areas and argues there is much that that the Scottish government can achieve.
"Governance of the new policy is also considered at length along with firm requirements for monitoring, evaluation and ongoing scrutiny."
Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force Chairman, Di Alexander, said :
"Fuel poverty is still affecting far too many rural households (50%) and a major step change is required if the target of eliminating fuel poverty in both rural and urban Scotland, within a clearly defined timescale, is going to be achieved.
"The Task Force's Action Plan sets out realistic and practical steps that could and should be taken to deliver this outcome. They are based on prioritising the needs of all vulnerable and fuel poor households, with a clear focus on those living in what are predominantly off-gas, rural and remote areas where heating bills are typically much higher than average.
"Both Governments, Ofgem and major utility companies like SSE and Scottish Power have crucial roles to play in ensuring rural Scotland gets a much better deal than it's getting at present and in helping to ensure that vulnerable households receive the quality outreach services they need to be able to live in affordable warmth and dignity in their homes, wherever they are located."
Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group made 4 high level recommendations:
• The fuel poverty strategy should be firmly based on the principle of social justice and creating a fairer and more equal society.
• The fuel poverty strategy must address all four drivers of fuel poverty: income, energy costs, energy performance, and how energy is used in the home.
• Strong leadership and a joined up approach across several portfolios within national and local government are required to develop and implement the strategy.
• The Scottish Government should review the current definition of fuel poverty and establish a policy objective and monitoring programme that addresses all four causes of fuel poverty.
The Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force 3 guiding principles are - Fairness and social justice should be every household's right wherever in urban or rural Scotland they happen to live; All vulnerable households should receive the most effective practical help and support they need to keep their homes warm and at a cost they can afford; and the progress made by Scottish Government in its strategic approaches to eliminating fuel poverty from peoples' lives should be set within a statutory framework for delivery which is rigorously measured and held to annual account by the Scottish Parliament.
Based on the advice from the Strategic Working Group the Scottish Government announced earlier in the summer that the target to eradicate fuel poverty by November this year would not be met and our approach to tackling fuel poverty would be reviewed. These two reports and the research paper will help shape way forward.