Chapter 10 - Conclusion: a rural-proofed plan for effective delivery
The Task Force was set up by Scottish Government with the purpose of helping it to formulate a new and realistic approach to tackling persistent rural fuel poverty issues. This chapter brings together the key strategic conclusions reached by the Task Force about the new approach required and which the Task Force believes lies within the powers and capabilities of Scottish Government to implement directly or influence strongly.
The Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force wholly agrees with the introductory conclusion to the Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group's 'Interim Key Findings' presented to Scottish Government and published in June 2016, namely: "that whilst existing approaches to eradicating fuel poverty in Scotland have been beneficial, they are not sufficient and the Scottish Government needs to adopt a very different approach (which), in the context of sustaining community empowerment, would be led by local community services and would be tailored to individual households."
To make certain that this new strategic approach will clearly address the persistent inequalities in Scottish society, including the needs of Scotland's rural and remote communities, the Task Force believes that it must be 'rural-proofed' and include specifically rural fuel poverty targets and expected programme outcomes.
Top strategic priority should be given to:
- The overall strategic objective: the eradication of rural fuel poverty within a defined timescale and with clear targets and milestones;
- Vulnerability: ensuring that, no matter where they live, all vulnerable households receive the type and level of personalised outreach support they need to be able to resolve their fuel poverty problems properly and live in affordable warmth in their own homes;
- Fairness:the outcomes of fuel poverty programmes and affordable warmth policies should be delivered equitably and consistently throughout the whole of Scotland.
- Enhanced support services: developing an effective collaborative system to ensure that all vulnerable households are referred to fuel poverty affordable warmth advice and support services.
- Off-gas areas: ensuring that remediation programmes give particular focus and priority to meeting the needs of off-gas households who are more likely to experience the highest rural fuel poverty and extreme fuel poverty levels in Scotland;
- High tariff electricity customers: vulnerable customers should be the top priority for generalised or specialised support and speedy implementation of the CMA recommendations.
- Energy carer approach: an 'energy carer' pilot is required to test and, where required, extend the effectiveness of home-delivered, area-based service provision dedicated to ensuring an affordable warmth outcome for vulnerable households and to develop the most effective models for the delivery of high quality, rural outreach 'energy care' services.
- Price comparison website: a trusted and independent non-transactional price comparison website where all prices can be compared on all tariffs charged by suppliers of all domestic fuels in all distinct energy market areas of Scotland is required.
- Indicators and assumptions: the indicators and assumptions that lie behind the targeting of resources for energy efficiency and fuel poverty in Scotland must be fully and effectively "rural proofed."
- Before and after outcomes: ensuring that fuel poverty policies and programmes are developed and further improved on the basis of thorough, before-and-after measurement and assessment of the outcomes of the interventions made, especially to the well-being of those helped.
- Public investment: ensuring that the share of public investment that is allocated to tackling rural and remote Scotland's fuel poverty and affordable warmth issues demonstrably matches its identified needs and also takes proper account of the additional health care, social and economic development impacts arising;
- Community Empowerment: the new Community Empowerment Act offers a potentially productive opportunity for community groups, working together, to develop a well-focussed but holistic approach to tackling fuel poverty issues at local level and establish fuel poverty eradication initiatives, and partnerships.
- Monitoring implementation: There is a requirement for the independent measurement of the progress made against the actions recommended in this report and any other relevant actions which may be included in Scottish Government's new fuel poverty strategy. The appointment of an independent Affordable Rural Warmth Implementation Group would support the Scottish Government's National Outcome of "tackling the significant inequalities in Scottish Society" by monitoring and providing regular reports on the progress made in tackling all aspects of the rural fuel poverty problem.