Fuel poverty: thousands of Scots still struggle to heat their homes

Written by Kate Shannon on 25 December 2016 in Inside Politics

Recent statistics show that fewer households were living in fuel poverty last year compared to 2014 but there's still work to be done

Fuel poverty: Photo credit - Holyrood

Recent statistics show that in 2015, 97,000 fewer households were living in fuel poverty compared to 2014. Just over 30 per cent, or around 748,000 households, were fuel poor and 8.3 per cent (or 203,000 households) were living in extreme fuel poverty in 2015.

The information, from the Scottish House Condition Survey (SHCS) for 2015, shows that just over half of the reduction in fuel poverty rates between 2014 and 2015 can be attributed to the lower price of domestic fuels; around a third to improvements in the energy-efficiency performance of the housing stock over this period; and the rest can be explained by higher household incomes.


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However, national fuel poverty charity Energy Action Scotland warned that while the figures are welcome news, it does not signify “job done”.

Norman Kerr, Director of Energy Action Scotland, said: “Just last month the statutory duty under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 for the Scottish Government to eradicate fuel poverty expired and the target was missed.  Two working groups were tasked to advise Scottish ministers on their next steps and they have made over 100 recommendations.  

“It is now vital that the Scottish Government uses this advice to develop a new strategy, sets a new fuel poverty target and increases funding for its programmes in the upcoming budget statement.

“The progress to date on solving the problem of cold, damp and unaffordable to heat homes must not be lost, but can and should be built upon.”
Scottish Green housing spokesman, Andy Wightman MSP said fuel poverty remains a “national disgrace”.

He added: “The Scottish Government has in the past not met targets to end fuel poverty and there is broad agreement across the parties that action is needed. When the draft Scottish budget is presented this month, it’s essential we see a firm commitment to increase funding.

“In 2016, 30 per cent of households are still classed as in fuel poverty in Scotland, with almost half also below the poverty threshold. There needs to be a change of mindset at government level with fuel poverty. The SNP must make it a priority to help improve people’s living standards and to boost work for small traders.“Those living in a fuel-poor home face higher risks of poor health and lower educational attainment, as well as the added stress of having to make difficult choices between heating and putting food on the table or buying a new school uniform.”

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said that while it welcomed the slight reduction in levels, they are still too high. 

SFHA chief executive Mary Taylor said: “Our members face a particular challenge in addressing fuel poverty as, while research published by the SFHA last year showed that housing associations and co-operatives have the most energy-efficient homes in Scotland, their tenants have lower than average incomes. This means that while their homes cost less to heat, they are just as likely to be in fuel poverty, and so it is vital that associations are supported to continue to invest in the energy efficiency of their homes.

“The figures show that fuel poverty remains a major challenge. If we are serious about ending fuel poverty, then minimum standards need to be set to bring homes across all tenures, not just housing association and local authority properties, to an acceptable energy efficiency standard – this will make a real difference to the lives of some of Scotland’s poorest people.

 

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