Chapter 1 - Fuel Poverty Strategy
Both groups set out a number of recommendations for the Scottish Government regarding setting a new long-term fuel poverty strategy, including:
- The new fuel poverty strategy should be placed firmly within the Government's plans to tackle poverty and inequalities;
- Local partnerships that are focused on improving wellbeing should be developed and resourced to take a lead responsibility for ensuring the eradication of fuel poverty in their areas;
- A review of the current fuel poverty definition is required due to concerns that the current definition is too broad and impedes targeting on those most in need;
- The review process should result in a new definition and target with a statutory basis; and
- All Scottish Government fuel poverty programmes should be "rural-proofed" to ensure that they both prioritise and, in practice, reach all vulnerable clients, especially those living in off-gas, rural areas.
This chapter addresses the following recommendations:
Strategic Working Group Recommended Actions
|SWG 1||SWG 2||SWG 37||SWG 38||SWG 39||SWG 41||SWG 42||SWG 43||SWG 44|
Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force Recommended Actions
|TF 1||TF 2||TF 29||TF 30|
*please refer to Annex A of this report for full details of each recommended action
What the working groups said
The Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group set out a vision for the fuel poverty strategy namely:
"a Scotland where everyone lives in a warm home, has sufficient income for healthy living, has access to affordable, low carbon energy, and has the skills to make appropriate use of energy".
The Strategic Working Group made clear that, despite considerable investment, the fuel poverty target was not met and that a new strategy based on the four high level principles listed above (pp 6-7) is needed to deliver affordable warmth and energy use for all. This new strategy should be part of the Government's plans to tackle poverty and inequalities, with a joined-up approach across portfolios, including those responsible for the Fairer Scotland Action Plan, the new Energy Strategy, the development of Scotland's Energy Efficiency Programme ( SEEP) and the Economic Strategy. The Strategic Working Group advised that, if designed correctly, the strategy should have a number of benefits and achieve a multitude of objectives including in relation to health, economic development and climate change.
Among other recommendations, the Strategic Working Group also emphasised the need for involving people who are actually experiencing fuel poverty in the development of the new strategy, citing the Poverty Truth Commission as an example of testing assumptions and solutions to ensure they are relevant to people's actual circumstances.
In developing the strategy, the Strategic Working Group said that it was timely for a review of the current definition of fuel poverty as it may be too broad and therefore potentially unhelpful in targeting scarce resources at those who need it most. The Group was clear that an independent review of the definition should be undertaken as soon as possible and outlined the issues that a review should consider.
The Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force echoed a number of the Strategic Working Group recommendations, with an emphasis on tackling the 21 distinctively rural dimensions to fuel poverty it identified, including the greater reliance on more expensive fuels than mains gas, the higher than average consumption and the greater reluctance of consumers to switch energy supplier, all contributing to higher energy bills.
The Task Force produced a series of specific actions to address what it defined as the key strategic aspects of the rural fuel poverty problem, including indicators and measures, energy prices, consumer engagement and house condition.
It advised that these actions should form a "rural-proofed plan for effective delivery", with specific rural fuel poverty targets and anticipated programme outcomes. In delivering this, the Task Force highlighted a number of top strategic priorities, including eradicating rural fuel poverty within a defined timescale.
What the Scottish Government is doing
We agree with both groups that simply doing 'more of the same' won't eradicate fuel poverty and we are committed to developing a new, long-term strategy, with a new target, which will be consulted on in Autumn 2017 and taken forward in a Warm Homes Bill. We will take on board lessons learned from the Poverty Truth Commission and the Fairer Scotland Action Plan to make sure that those living at the sharp end of fuel poverty are involved in both the consultation and, longer-term, the work of the Fuel Poverty Forum in overseeing delivery of the strategy.
It is important to make sure that both the new strategy and new target are focused on those who are most in need to help to heat their homes. The definition of fuel poverty is fundamental to any strategy and Ministers have already accepted the Strategic Working Group's recommendation to commission an independent, expert review of the current definition of fuel poverty. The recommendations of this review will inform the new fuel poverty strategy.
This review will be taken forward by a panel of independent experts, and is due to be completed in the summer. The panel will examine existing evidence, undertake new analysis where necessary and consider key stakeholder views on how the official definition of fuel poverty can best contribute to improved outcomes.
Whilst this work is ongoing, we will remain focused on our overall ambition - to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland. We will continue to invest in our fuel poverty and energy efficiency programmes - including our area-based schemes delivered by local authorities and our national scheme, Warmer Homes Scotland, in order to provide support through advice and practical measures that will help Scottish householders live in warmer, more affordable homes, wherever they live in Scotland.
We recognise the specific circumstances and additional costs involved in improving the energy efficiency of properties in rural areas. We have sought to address this through our existing schemes, for example Warmer Homes Scotland is delivered on a regional basis, including a specific islands region, to ensure all eligible households, regardless of where they are in Scotland, receive the same service. Funding to councils for our area based schemes is based on need, taking into account levels of fuel poverty and the prevalence of properties with low energy performance. And households in remote and island areas receive greater levels of funding to help improve their homes, reflecting the increased delivery costs in rural areas. We will continue to work closely with our delivery partners to ensure our funding is targeted on those most in need and, as much as possible, addresses the specific circumstances of households struggling to heat their homes affordably.
Both reports highlighted the importance of working closely with partner organisations to achieve the best outcome for householders and we agree. Home Energy Scotland is the Scottish Government-funded one stop shop for advice and information on energy savings. HES has put in place a referral portal that gives our partner organisations a quick and easy way to refer clients and customers to support, including funding to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. A range of organisations have already signed up to use this new tool - including NHS Boards and energy suppliers. Organisations that have signed up to use the portal told us that previously they may have been wary of referring their clients on if they didn't know they had received the support they told them they could get. This portal allows them to see the outcome of their referrals, helping to build trust with our partners and encouraging them to help us reach more vulnerable customers.
The Strategic Working Group asked that Government ring-fence funding to help support local partnerships, coordinated through Community Planning Partnerships ( CPPs), to eradicate fuel poverty in their area. We recognise the value of a locally-led, collaborative approach in tackling fuel poverty and it is something we have been supporting through our HEEPS: Area-Based Schemes. We are keen to build on this approach and will work with local authorities, NHS Boards, health and social care partnerships, CPPs and others to explore ways to do so.
We will be looking further at how we can build on existing and, if necessary, develop new local partnerships alongside wider joined-up approaches. This will build on the progress already made, in particular with NHS Health Scotland who, in response to our Fairer Scotland Action Plan, has recently pledged to work in partnership with NHS Boards to develop national referral pathways between NHS services and local advice services to maximise the incomes of patients.
The Scottish Government is committed to the following actions:
- We will commission an independent, academic review of the fuel poverty definition, to be concluded in Summer 2017;
- In Autumn 2017 we will publish a consultation paper on a new, long-term fuel poverty strategy
- We will introduce a Warm Homes Bill in 2018 to set a new statutory fuel poverty target;
- Through Scotland's Energy Efficiency Programme, we will further engage with the wider public sector bodies to consider how best we can work together to tackle fuel poverty across all of Scotland, regardless of geography;
- We will engage with the Poverty Truth Commission and others to ensure those who are experiencing fuel poverty are involved in the development and monitoring of the new strategy; and
- We will continue to deliver our fuel poverty and energy efficiency programmes and integrate these as part of SEEP when it is rolled out in 2018.
Email: Central Enquiry Unit