Section 6: Monitoring, evaluation and reporting
The Scottish Government established the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum (the Forum) in 2008. Most recently there were 16 organisations represented including representatives from energy companies, charities and fuel poverty experts. The Forum has the following remit:
- Monitor the implementation of the Scottish Government's energy efficiency schemes.
- Advise Ministers on further actions required.
- Liaise with the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group for England to develop an appropriate link that will ensure Scottish interests are fed into reserved policy areas.
Since it was established, the Forum has had many notable achievements, including the development of the current HEEPS, both the area-based and national fuel poverty programmes.
In 2015, Scottish Ministers established two short-life, expert groups to provide advice and recommendations on tackling fuel poverty: the Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group ( SWG) and the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force ( RFPTF). The groups were independently chaired and made up of representatives from a range of organisations with an interest in energy efficiency and fuel poverty. Among the recommendations of the two groups was that the role and remit of the Fuel Poverty Forum should be reviewed.
The SWG's recommendations included that changes should be made to the existing governance arrangements of the Forum. It proposed the establishment of a more focused statutory body to provide advice and scrutiny, and a mechanism for regular exchange of best practice. It suggested this new body should play an important role in the monitoring and evaluation of SEEP in parallel to the SEEP Board's scrutiny role.
It did, however, recognise the importance of the existing Forum and the experience and expertise of the members. It therefore recommended that it should play an important part in the transition to any new arrangements for advice and improve the approach where required. The SWG also suggested that the existing Forum should oversee the development of the new fuel poverty strategy, but was clear that its longer term role and remit should be reviewed. It also suggested that there should be a cross-Ministerial meeting to discuss the development of the strategy.
Based on these recommendations, Ministers have approved a proposal for two new bodies to be established, an independently chaired Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel and a Partnership Forum to be set up to replace the existing Forum. The Advisory Panel will be a smaller, strategic group which will meet at least four times a year. The Partnership Forum will have a wider membership and will meet a minimum of once per year, with the potential to meet a second time within the same year if required.
The remit of the Advisory Panel will include:
- monitoring and reporting on progress of the development and implementation of the Scottish Government's Fuel Poverty Strategy, including a new fuel poverty target;
- supporting and challenging Government at all levels on delivery of its fuel poverty and energy efficiency programmes and efforts to tackle fuel poverty;
- encouraging and fostering a partnership approach to tackling fuel poverty across the public, private and third sectors; and
- monitoring and reporting on the delivery of the SWG's and RFPTF's recommendations contained in each group's respective reports.
The Advisory Panel will report to Ministers annually on progress.
The Scottish Fuel Poverty Partnership Forum will:
- review the annual SHCS results regarding levels of fuel poverty;
- provide a source of expertise that can be called upon to sit on short life working groups on specific issues and provide evidence to the Advisory Panel as required; and
- support a co-ordinated approach to tackling fuel poverty across the public, private and third sectors.
We expect these new groups to be operational by early 2018.
13) How should the new Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel and Fuel Poverty Partnership Forum monitor progress towards meeting the proposed subtargets and interim milestones?
14) What do you think the Advisory Panel's priorities should be in its first year?
Tackling fuel poverty is a long term commitment that requires strategic interventions across a range of sectors which take time to embed in practice. It can be challenging to identify households who are in fuel poverty without asking detailed questions on household income and fuel use. Delivery of our programmes relies, therefore, on the use of proxies to identify households likely to be fuel poor by virtue of having low incomes and high fuel costs. For example, in our HEEPS: Area-Based Schemes councils can use a range of proxies to identify areas or neighbourhoods where the incidence of fuel poverty is likely to be high. This includes using national indicators, such as the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation ( SIMD) data, and council tax bands as proxies for low income; or more local information, such as use of free school meals, blended with stock condition information which can identify properties with poor thermal efficiency. Our WHS scheme also uses proxies, identifying eligible households based on the receipt of certain benefits. Our approach to using proxies has always sought to outweigh the complexities and high resource costs associated with assessing individual household incomes against fuel costs - such as through using doorstep tools, something considered by the Definition Review Panel in their report http://www.gov.scot/ISBN/9781788512428.
However, we recognise that use of proxies can be a fairly blunt approach to identifying fuel poor households and that other approaches should be explored.
A strategic, cross-sectoral approach was set out clearly in the SWG report as a crucial element to providing support to those who need it most. The Panel which undertook the review of the fuel poverty definition recommended a doorstep tool which could help assess eligibility based on the revised definition and help with local implementation and delivery of programmes. We will consider how this could be tested to see how effective it is in terms of delivery of Scottish programmes.
15) What examples do you have of using proxies to identify fuel poor households?
a) Which proxies did you use?
b) Based on your experience, how well did these proxies work in accurately identifying fuel poor households?
16) What are the key lessons to be learnt from any existing approaches that apply proxies in door-to-door, on-the-ground assessments in this context?
17) Do you have any concerns about the use of a doorstep tool, in particular the challenges around delivery of area based schemes?
Overall fuel poverty levels will continue to be monitored and published annually as part of the SHCS. In addition, the 2001 Act committed Scottish Government to report progress on measures set out in a Fuel Poverty statement every 4 years. The Scottish Government believes that collective responsibility must be taken across society for tackling all of the drivers of fuel poverty if we are to achieve our common aim of eradicating it. With this in mind, we believe that any future reports on delivery plans should continue to be no more regular than every 4 years. However, we recognise that any commitments to regular reporting need to be jointly developed and agreed with key partners - ensuring a collaborative approach to reporting progress and demonstrating collective responsibility for action taken.
18) How can the Scottish Government most effectively work with Community Planning Partnerships in a collaborative manner to report on overall fuel poverty levels as part of the SHCS?