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Changes Ahead to Definition of Fuel Poverty

The Scottish Government is  to make half a billion pounds available over the next four years to tackle fuel poverty. By the end of 2021 it will have allocated over £1 billion since 2009 on tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency. Despite all these measures  in Orkney we are still top of the fuel poverty charts.

The existing definition of Fuel Poverty was set out in 2002 and stated: “that a household was fuel poor if energy costs to keep their home sufficiently warm were not less than 10% of their income (informally known as the ‘10% definition’).

The current definition of Fuel Poverty may be impeding efforts to help those most in need according to a working group set up to examine the issue. Their report can be viewed here. It stated that “a new definition should capture the lived experiences of people affected by fuel poverty, especially those for whom energy costs incur enduring hardship and adversity.”

Taking forward some of the recommendations the Scottish Government has published a paper Consultation on a Fuel Poverty Strategy for Scotland.  Your views are being sought on this with a closing date of 1st February 2018.

“Based on the evidence the Panel presented, the Scottish Government agreed that the current definition of fuel poverty that has been used in Scotland is no longer fit for purpose. We propose to implement the main components of the revised definition recommended by the independent Panel and to refer to it in the Warm Homes Bill. The new definition will include an income threshold based on 90% of the UK MIS (Minimum Income Standard) (after subtracting housing, fuel and childcare costs) and the 10% fuel cost to income ratio will be based on an AHC (After Housing Cost)basis.”

The Scottish Government is not putting forward all of the recommendations from the Independent panel of academic experts:

  • the MIS thresholds will not be adjusted upward for households living in remote rural areas or where at least one member of the household is long-term sick or disabled. These elements are inconsistent with the broader approach taken by Scottish Government in measuring income poverty and policy towards national minimum and living wages
  • the enhanced heating regime for vulnerable households will not be applied for households with children under 5 since this is inconsistent with established NHS guidance. This will be subject to further review and medical expert advice on optimum temperatures for children.

The Scottish Government proposes that, for older households, where a person does not suffer from any long-term ill health or disability, they will not be considered vulnerable until they reach 75 years of age. 80% of households in this category should remain unchanged.

The bedroom temperature level is to be increased from 18C to 20C with the living room remaining at 23C.

 the adjustments to the measurements set out above, would result in fuel poverty in Scotland decreasing from 30.7% of households to 25.7%”.

energy efficent houseThe proposals in the Scottish Government’s paper are designed to target more support to the young and those on low incomes taking it from those in the higher income bracket currently included.

Owner occupiers will be encouraged to take part in schemes to make their homes more energy efficient and reduce fuel bills.

“Building on the success of the Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland (HEEPS), we are working to develop and implement SEEP (Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme), which will be a core component of the Scottish Government’s new Energy Strategy. We consulted on SEEP and the draft Energy Strategy earlier this year and are currently working to further develop both in response to the feedback received.”

The possibility of setting up a publically owned energy company is also being investigated.  In addition there is a desire for shared ownership renewables schemes which would benefit the local community.

The Warm Homes Bill to be introduced will take all the factors affecting fuel poverty and intends to address them through a range of measures  Two new bodies are to be established, an independently chaired Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel and a Partnership Forum to be set up to replace the existing Fuel Poverty Forum. These bodies will monitor and evaluate the strategies used.

 Kevin Stewart, Housing Minister in the Scottish Government said:

Kevin Stewart

Kevin Stewart, Housing Minister

“we are now seeking views on a new long-term strategy which sets out ambitious targets to reduce fuel poverty. By lifting those experiencing fuel poverty into a better quality of life we can create a fair and more equal society.”

“Scotland is one of only a handful of European countries to define fuel poverty and now we are taking an even bigger step. Our fuel poverty strategy and Warm Homes Bill will take a bolder and more focused approach to reducing fuel poverty.”

 Norman Kerr,Director of Energy Action Scotland said:

“Energy Action Scotland welcomes this consultation on the fuel poverty strategy. As the national fuel poverty charity we are fortunate to be able to draw upon decades of experience and relationships within our national network of experts, in order to turn cold, damp houses into warm, dry homes.”

“The Government should hear from as many groups and organisations as possible – this forthcoming strategy is too important not to have a voice in shaping.”

You can give your views online here

If you are unable to respond online you can  complete the Respondent Information Form to: Fuel Poverty Strategy Consultation, Scottish Government Fifth Floor, Atlantic Quay, 150 Broomielaw, Glasgow G2 8LU

Information on how to respond and the full report can be viewed and downloaded:   Consultation on a Fuel Poverty Strategy for Scotland

snow-on-hoy

Orkney which has the highest rate of fuel poverty in Scotland with many householders living in extreme fuel poverty 

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

 

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