It is unfair that some people have to pay a 'poverty premium' for fuel simply because of where they live, the standard of housing available to them, or because they are unable to achieve secure or sufficient income. Affordable energy use is a basic need that must be met in order for individuals and families to thrive and enjoy wellbeing.
Fuel poor households suffer from, or are put at risk of, poor health and wellbeing outcomes, lower educational attainment, and are forced to juggle energy bills alongside other essential needs such as food, school uniforms and transport.
This report has explored why current programmes have failed to eradicate fuel poverty. It outlines a bold approach which aims to deliver affordable and attainable warmth and energy use for everyone in Scotland. This approach is based on four 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.
A Scotland without fuel poverty is a Scotland where everyone lives in a warm, cosy home, has sufficient income for healthy living and access to affordable, low carbon energy. This is achievable through a sufficient supply of good quality affordable housing (all tenures), a distribution of good quality jobs across the country, an effective social security system and substantially more affordable sources of low carbon energy.
Address all four drivers of fuel poverty: income, energy costs, energy performance, and how energy is used in the home.
The new strategy must take a comprehensive approach to addressing all four drivers of fuel poverty. Experience over many years has shown that energy efficiency improvements, while important, will not eradicate fuel poverty. This report includes recommendations on raising incomes, reducing energy costs, and helping households to manage their energy use. In addition, the report recommends that efforts to improve energy efficiency of homes should be enhanced, with the aim of eradicating energy efficiency as a driver for fuel poverty.
Establish collaborative approaches with strong leadership at national and local levels.
The new fuel poverty strategy requires a joined up approach across several portfolios within government. This should take the form of a cross-departmental ministerial group, making fuel poverty eradication a clear component of the health, communities, inequalities, housing, and energy portfolios, with one cabinet secretary accountable to deliver the strategy. The new strategies emerging from government on a Fairer Scotland, the National Infrastructure Priority on energy efficiency, and the new Energy Strategy are all relevant in this context.
This national leadership needs to be matched and resourced at the local level. Local partnerships focused on creating good health and wellbeing will tackle the full range of challenges causing fuel poverty. This can be achieved through Community Planning Partnerships, Health and Social Care Partnerships and local government. In this way, fuel poverty should become a routine consideration for those providing services to people at risk.
Review the current definition of fuel poverty and establish a policy objective and monitoring programme that addresses all four causes of fuel poverty.
The fuel poverty definition is important for setting policy objectives, targeting of resources and measurement of progress. There are concerns that the current definition of fuel poverty can impede targeting and measurement of impact. We also know that the current monitoring of programmes does not tell us the impacts of interventions on levels of fuel poverty.
We believe the definition and measurement of progress should focus on the desired outcome - affordable and attainable warmth and energy use. It should acknowledge fuel poverty as a manifestation of poverty and inequalities in society; and be easy to understand and measure. A monitoring and evaluation framework should be established at the outset of the strategy, alongside appropriate mechanisms for scrutiny of the strategy.
This report has provided detailed recommendations on how these broad themes can be taken forward in a new, comprehensive strategy to eradicate fuel poverty. It includes both short term measures, that can give some immediate relief to individuals and families from high energy bills or draughty homes, and longer term strategies that seek to create local employment opportunities and more affordable sources of energy.
It is a bold and ambitious approach that will challenge existing ways of working, but will be much more effective at helping households to enjoy the benefits of a warm, dry home, and to rid our society from a key source of deprivation. It is also a sustainable approach, as it will tackle fuel poverty now and stop it happening for future households.