Draft Fuel Poverty Strategy for Scotland 2018

The draft fuel poverty strategy sets out the policy development of the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy)(Scotland) Bill and the draft Fuel Poverty Strategy for Scotland 2018.

A Strategic Perspective

An Outcomes Focussed Approach

Through the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill we will bring forward legislation which focusses our efforts and drives forward action to reduce fuel poverty. But we recognise that this legislation alone will not deliver all of our aims. Our approach must be more strategic and take account of the range of mechanisms that can be used to target support towards those who need it most.

Of the three traditionally recognised drivers (income, fuel prices and energy efficiency), and the additional influence of how individuals use energy in their homes, it is only the energy efficiency of our properties where the Scottish Government has full control.

This means that a collaborative approach to tackle all drivers effectively is crucial, and we are already working hard to put these approaches in place. For example, energy companies, consumer groups and the statutory bodies such as Ofgem and the CMA are among our key partners in delivering a fairer Scotland. A summit was convened by the Scottish Government in January 2018 to bring together stakeholders to share good practice and identify ways to work collaboratively for the benefit of energy consumers in Scotland.

A number of practical and collaborative actions were identified, including doing more to help customers with restricted meters to get a better deal, helping prepayment customers who are at risk of self-disconnecting and raising the profile of Priority Services Registers.

As well as looking at outputs, we are committed to building on our current approaches to capturing the impact of our efforts to reduce fuel poverty on people and communities by monitoring and measuring outcomes. We currently report annually on the outcomes of our programmes and produce a separate Annual Report on our Warmer Homes Scotland scheme. We have recently begun installing temperature monitoring equipment in properties benefiting from energy efficiency measures under Warmer Homes Scotland which will provide data on the impact of the measures installed. We are also committed to carrying out a comprehensive evaluation of our HEEPS programme to establish how effective it has been in improving the energy efficiency of properties and the lives of householders. Continuing to monitor and report on progress will be a key element of the five yearly reporting, to be developed with the Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel and we will ensure that this is aligned, where appropriate, with the monitoring and evaluation framework to be developed for Energy Efficient Scotland.

In our consultation, we included an outcomes framework and asked for comments on it. Responses to those questions made it clear that there was broad agreement about the move to an outcomes focussed approach. We want to ensure the framework is an effective tool in helping to identify the relationship between a range of policies and programmes with fuel poverty, and that we fully consider how their contribution can be reflected in the monitoring and evaluation we undertake. We will work with the Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel to develop the framework which we will publish in a Final Fuel Poverty Strategy in 2019.

Cross portfolio commitments

We recognise that tackling fuel poverty effectively has a number of benefits. Improving the energy performance of homes can have a significant impact on health and wellbeing, particularly on children’s respiratory health and therefore healthcare professionals will continue to have an important role in referring people in cold homes to sources of support.

Investment in energy efficiency to support our ambitions to eradicate fuel poverty and increase wellbeing

Infographic Text:
Investment in energy efficiency to support our ambitions to eradicate fuel poverty and increase wellbeing

We are committed to reducing health inequalities resulting from living in fuel poverty and encourage collaborative working that will help mitigate the impacts of fuel poverty on health and wellbeing, and this was set out in a joint Ministerial letter, issued in May 2017, to NHS Scotland Chief Executives and Directors of Public Health.

This Draft Strategy and the Fuel Poverty Bill are supported by a Health Impact Assessment. This provides details and evidence on the effects on health and wellbeing of living in a cold home and of energy efficiency interventions, current partnership engagement with NHS Scotland and how we propose to build on this to help reduce health inequalities for those living in fuel poverty.

In addition, the Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel membership includes NHS Health Scotland and we will continue to work with them to build on existing and, as necessary, develop new partnerships alongside wider joined-up approaches. This will build on the progress already made, in particular with NHS Health Scotland which, in response to our Fairer Scotland Action Plan, has pledged to work in partnership with NHS Boards to develop national referral pathways between NHS services and local advice services, including the provision of energy advice, to maximise the income of patients.

There are also wider benefits, including reducing social isolation and empowering communities to take ownership of their own energy needs. We have seen evidence of these interventions also supporting growth in the economy by helping to reduce sickness absence for those in work and school; promoting motivation; improving educational attainment; and increasing productivity.

In addition, improvements to the energy efficiency of our homes, and our efforts to decarbonise the heat supply to our building stock helps to address both climate change and fuel poverty objectives. We recognise that the decarbonisation of the Scottish economy must be achieved in a way which delivers an environmentally and socially sustainable economy. To help prepare for this, and to ensure that decarbonisation is a positive experience for our communities, we will establish a Just Transition Commission later this year. The Commission will provide advice to Ministers on how to continue decarbonising Scotland in a fair way that will also help to tackle inequality, poverty and promote a fair and inclusive jobs market.

We are considering the economic impacts of the programmes we are putting in place to deliver our ambitions to eradicate fuel poverty. The Energy Efficient Scotland Route Map confirmed that the Programme has the potential to create a substantial Scottish market and supply chain for energy efficiency services and technologies, with every £100 million spent on energy efficiency improvements in 2018 estimated to support approximately 1,200 full-time equivalent jobs. This will be a boost to the national and local economies.

At a cross-Ministerial Summit on fuel poverty which took place on 6 December 2017, Ministers recognised these wider benefits and agreed to continue to seek opportunities to put in place actions that can be undertaken across portfolios that will complement this strategy and ensure a true cross-government approach is taken to reduce fuel poverty levels. Initial high level commitments are set out in the following table:

1. Support NHS Boards and Health and Social Care Partnerships to build on existing programmes - such as the Links Worker programme - that facilitate access to help for those vulnerable to the poor health outcomes associated with fuel/energy poverty and roll these out on a Scotland-wide basis.

2. The Climate Change Plan will include policies to tackle fuel poverty, thereby also promoting climate justice.

3. Fuel Poverty will be prioritised and supported throughout the Energy Efficient Scotland Programme

4. We have set out our ambition to establish a public energy company to support our efforts to resolve fuel poverty and help to achieve our climate change targets.

5. Put in place a social security system based on the principles of dignity, fairness and respect, that encourages more people, including those on low incomes who may have struggled with their fuel bills, to claim the financial support they are entitled to.

6. Consumer engagement and protection is at the heart of Scotland’s Energy Strategy. We will work hard to protect consumers from excessive or avoidable costs and will develop an Energy Consumers Action Plan to ensure that consumers can benefit from the energy transition.

7. We will ensure any proposals taken forward on Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies ( LHEES) recognise the potential impact on fuel poor households

8. In collaboration with the enterprise agencies; skills bodies; and industry representatives, explore the opportunities to build on existing expertise and shape a workforce across Scotland, including in rural areas, that is able to deliver on Energy Efficient Scotland objectives.

These cross-government actions set the course for a new approach, but we are clear that they need to be built upon and further developed in collaboration with stakeholders across relevant sectors before we publish a fuel poverty strategy in 2019 under the new legislation. This will ensure we drive forward robust actions that contribute effectively to our aims of eradicating fuel poverty. This isn’t a definitive list and we will continue to explore the engagement and impacts of living wage and fair work policies on fuel poverty outcomes. We will also continue to develop the links with emerging poverty eradication workstreams, including through ‘Every Child, Every Chance, The Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018-22 [11] ’, which includes actions to help maximise household incomes and avoid some of the additional costs of the poverty premium. For example, we are committed to introduce a new Financial Health Check Guarantee for low income families with children in 2018. This is a major two year programme with a £1.5 million budget each year. The programme will offer low income parents the opportunity for personalised advice on income maximisation and how to avoid paying the ‘poverty premium’. It could help increase incomes by getting those households better access to cheaper deals on energy or other utilities; advice on government programmes that can help; or help with benefits that haven’t been claimed in full or at all.

Assessing progress

This draft strategy gives a clear sense of the shape of the fuel poverty strategy to be published in 2019 under the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill. Following publication of the Fuel Poverty Strategy in 2019, we intend to publish a report on it every 5 years until 2040. Each report on the strategy must set out the progress that has been made to meet the non-statutory sub-targets, and towards the overall 2040 target, which must be met. This is intended to be both a reflection of achievements to date as well as a forward look, identifying new actions that will contribute to our aims of eradicating fuel poverty.

Reports will be jointly developed and agreed with key partners (including local authorities and Community Planning Partnerships). Through this approach it is our intention to ensure collaboration on reporting progress and to demonstrate collective responsibility for action.

We are acutely aware that technologies and circumstances will change over time. Some technology may make a greater contribution to help meet the eradication target. Some circumstances, including changes in fuel prices and the effects of climate change, may make meeting the target harder. We will undertake a review of delivery of the strategy to 2030 and recommend further necessary action to take to meet the 2040 target and associated sub-targets. This would be undertaken by 2031.

Annual reporting on overall fuel poverty levels will continue through the SHCS. In order to monitor the new definition at the national level, we are collecting new information on childcare costs and the income of other adults in a household (in addition to the highest income householder and their partner or spouse) in the 2018 SHCS. Therefore, from December 2019, the SHCS Key Findings will be able to report fuel poverty rates which are fully aligned with the new definition.

We will also report annually on the delivery of energy efficiency measures through our programmes, as is currently done through the Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland Delivery Report.

The statistics and SHCS report that will indicate 2040 fuel poverty levels will not be available for at least 12 months after 2040. It is therefore our intention to publish a final report no later than 2042 on the outcome of the strategy and any continuing actions that lwill be put in place as a result.

Governance: Advisory Bodies

To ensure robust and effective governance for monitoring progress and providing additional scrutiny of the Strategy over the period to 2040, Scottish Ministers have established two new, independently chaired groups: the Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel; and Partnership Forum. Together these groups replace the former Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum.

The Advisory Panel is a smaller, strategic group which will meet at least four times a year and report to Ministers annually on progress. The Partnership Forum is a broader representative body for the fuel poverty sector, and will meet a minimum of once per year, with the potential to meet a second time within the same year if required.

The main activities of the Advisory Panel include:

  • monitoring and reporting on progress of the development and implementation of the Scottish Government’s Fuel Poverty Strategy, including the new fuel poverty target;
  • supporting and challenging Government at all levels on delivery of its fuel poverty and energy efficiency programmes and efforts to tackle fuel poverty;
  • encouraging and fostering a partnership approach to tackling fuel poverty across the public, private and third sectors; and
  • monitoring and reporting on the delivery of the Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group’s and Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force’s recommendations contained in each group’s respective reports.

The main activities of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Partnership Forum include:

  • reviewing the annual SHCS results regarding levels of fuel poverty;
  • providing a source of expertise that can be called upon to sit on short life working groups on specific issues and provide evidence to the Advisory Panel as required; and
  • supporting a co-ordinated approach to tackling fuel poverty across the public, private and third sectors.

Details of membership remit and work plans for both groups are published on the Scottish Government’s website and minutes of their meetings will be regularly updated.

Lived Experience

We have listened to feedback that suggested our approach to a new Fuel Poverty Strategy could be improved by taking account of those with lived experience of fuel poverty. We agree that this will be an important part of assessing our progress and will help us determine and mainstream approaches that can best support people living in fuel poverty and to prevent others from experiencing the same hardships. That is why we have ensured the consultation requirements in the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill obliges Scottish Ministers to consult with people with experience of fuel poverty when making any regulations under the Act.

In addition to this, the new governance arrangements we have put in place for the monitoring of progress on tackling fuel poverty, through establishing the new Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel and Partnership Forum, will mean that those with lived experience directly inform the strategic advice provided to Ministers, and the workplan activities of these new bodies. This is ensured through the diverse membership of the two groups: an organisational representative of The Poverty Alliance, whose own members include individuals with experience of poverty, sits on the Advisory Panel; and a Commissioner of The Poverty Truth Commission, who has direct lived experience, sits on the Partnership Forum.

The Poverty and Inequality Commission have recognised the strong links between policies targeting different forms of poverty. In their recent advice to the Scottish Government on the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, the Commission welcomed the proposed changes to the definition of fuel poverty to strengthen the relationship with low income. They also advised that the Scottish Government should continue its work to reduce fuel poverty and ensure that it is focused on supporting those on low incomes.

Partnership working

Our partners, both at a local and a national level, have a critical role in helping us to eradicate fuel poverty. It is through building strong partnerships that we will better identify those who need support most, and deliver it to them in a way that is best suited to their needs. By working closely with our partners, we can create more opportunities to raise awareness and take further action to increase uptake of the support available by effective signposting. And we recognise the importance of flexibility to enable partnership approaches that respond to local needs.

We fund Home Energy Scotland ( HES) to provide free and impartial energy advice to all callers via the Freephone hotline number. In addition, HES is the only referral route for households experiencing fuel poverty, to our national energy efficiency schemes.

Home Energy Scotland

Our schemes are designed to assist the fuel poor households that may be in the most urgent need of support, and it is for this reason we want as many organisations as possible to partner with HES to ensure that referrals to the help we can offer are accessible and available across Scotland.

Because HES is giving clear and impartial advice on making homes cheaper to heat every day, it is important that the advisors are trained and supported to deliver excellent customer service. HES is now credit rated on the Scottish Qualifications Authority ( SQA) Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, and as a result they are already benefiting from increased skills and knowledge amongst staff and from greater consistency and control in their training, leading to improved working practices.

Through HES, we already prioritise actively seeking engagement with partner organisations representing interests in health, mental health, early years and carers. As a result, many more locally based organisations now have clear referral pathways to access support to tackle fuel poverty, and there are more organisations we can reach.

We value the knowledge and expertise locally based organisations and community groups have. We want to be a part of strengthening the network of support they can offer the individuals they help, and we will ensure that we continue to identify and engage new partners, particularly in priority areas such as the health sector and families with young children, to make sure more eligible households are made aware of the help they can get.

Respondents to our consultation on the development of the strategy told us that many of our existing partnerships are working well, particularly in terms of the number and range of households accessing the HES services and it is very encouraging that in a recent customer satisfaction survey over 99% of customers were satisfied with the service they received from HES. Respondents to our consultation also suggested ways in which partnership engagement and HES services could be enhanced or expanded, including:

  • Closer working with local partners and community-level organisations, to build from their knowledge of local circumstances and how this can support engagement with households who may be less able to access national partners’ services. This approach may help to extend the range of and quality of services available to HES customers, enabling more effective referrals between HES and local services.
  • More use of outreach and in-person approaches, including use of local organisations that vulnerable households are more likely to engage with as a means of identifying needs and providing fuel poverty advice. We will reflect on the outcomes of the HES Homecare pilot to build in a service of intense support for the most vulnerable clients.
  • Improving the customer journey for those who do not speak English as their first language. In addition to services already offered by HES in foreign languages, it was suggested that HES provide multilingual advisors to provide advice and support in the home for vulnerable clients and to extend this service from initial advice through to the installation of any measures available from Scottish Government energy efficiency scheme.

Much of this activity is already underway through the current work plan for HES and will consider how activity in these areas can be driven forward, including as part of the HES contract retender exercise, being taken forward this year.

HES will continue to actively encourage closer partnership working, including exploring the establishment of data sharing agreements with key partners, such as local authorities, community groups and energy advice providers, to support a more coordinated identification process and response to those most vulnerable to fuel poverty. In particular, HES will focus efforts in this way towards those with more limited access to HES services. HES will also explore extending the current provision of multilingual advice and support to ensure everyone in Scotland can access all their services.

HES will continue to raise awareness of their services across local organisations and the wider public, including the delivery of community-based events and/or workshops to provide advice and information to support locally based organisations with particular focus on areas with limited locally-based advice provision. This will ensure the consistency of the provision of energy advice and support to everyone wherever they live in Scotland, and we will set this out in more detail in the Fuel Poverty Strategy to be published in 2019 under the new legislation.

New and emerging partnerships

More proactive engagement to identify and partner with a wider range of organisations is necessary in order to reach the households who are struggling to afford their fuel bills. Through HES we are continuing to develop pathways to make as many local and national partnerships across Scotland as we can, using both a bottom up and top down approach, to ensure we engage with those organisations effectively and maximise reach.

Climate Change
For a number of years, HES has been able to provide support for home energy efficiency projects through the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund ( CCF) [12] and this has enabled us to engage with a great number of locally delivered, front facing organisations on fuel poverty issues. The CCF supports communities across Scotland to take action on climate change and make the move to low carbon living. Since 2008, the Scottish Government has made 1,097 awards valued at £101 million to 658 communities through the CCF. Applicants wishing to carry out home energy efficiency projects are encouraged to work with HES on the project, and to request a letter of support from HES to this effect. Having this support from HES will increase the chance of projects being awarded funding.

During the period 2009-18, on average 44 letters of support have been issued by HES to CCF applicants per year, resulting in an annual average of 25 projects going on to receive funding. Over the same period, there has been an overall positive upward trend in the number of letters issued, reflecting the positive engagement and strength of partnership working between the two programmes. Last year alone, HES worked with and offered letters of support to 83 CCF applicants compared to only 6 during 2009/10 – 47 of these latest applications were successful and have been awarded CCF funding. In total, since 2009 HES has supported CCF projects whose collective value is equal to just over £22.4 million.

We will continue to strengthen the links between fuel poverty and projects supported by this funding.

Locally Based and Face-to-Face Support

We think it’s important that face to face support is available for those who need more assistance. In 2017 we launched a HES Homecare pilot project, targeting face-to-face advice and support in the home to the most vulnerable fuel poor households, in two rural areas, Dumfries and Galloway and Moray. This pilot is an example of how HES continues to develop locally based and delivered support mechanisms that can reach those most in need. A case study demonstrating the real life benefits of this pilot can be found on the Scottish Government’s website [13] .

We have encouraged HES to work with locally based organisations to transform the scale of their partnerships. One example of this is the engagement with Home-Start – a charity that helps families with young children deal with the challenges they face:

Case Study: HES initially made contact with Home-Start in Clackmannanshire in September 2017, providing local staff with training on fuel poverty and HES services and putting in place a referral agreement using the HES online referral portal. The Home-Start manager recognised the benefits of this service for other Home-Starts across Scotland and facilitated engagement between their national contact and HES. Since January 2018 HES has been working closely with Home Start at a national level to encourage local engagement in other areas across Scotland. This rapidly resulted in engagement with three additional Home-Start projects in Stranraer, Maryhill and West Lothian. In the first two months of the project HES received 20 referrals from Home-Start projects. This partnership is now well established and continues to grow. Home-Start has also agreed to promote an awareness campaign focussing on lone parents by highlighting the support we offer on fuel poverty to local projects through their own network of contacts and helping to achieve our mutual aims on both fuel poverty and child poverty.

Another approach being developed through partnership working by HES involves MacMillan Cancer Support. The two organisations held several meetings during 2016 to discuss what form of engagement would be practical and effective. It was agreed that the point of contact would be ‘benefit partnership’ workers based in third party welfare rights advice centres, such as Citizens Advice Bureaux, local authority money advice services and similar. These workers specialise in providing advice and guidance on benefits and other practical matters to cancer sufferers and their families. HES provided training at several locations in May 2017 to inform the workers about fuel poverty and the support available from HES and they were encouraged to sign up to and use the HES online referral portal. This partnership has proven to be an excellent route for HES to engage with a variety of advice services and within the first year 160 referrals were received from more than 20 different benefits partnerships.

On wider health engagement, we know that NHS websites are a trusted source of information and so the NHS 24 and NHS information websites are currently featuring HES in a campaign highlighting them as a source of advice to help householders save money on their energy bills and make their home a healthier place to live. This follows on from the success HES have had engaging with the health service and helping patients through having a presence in local GP surgeries across Scotland. For example, since winter 2017 HES have had a monthly advice presence at Craigmillar Medical Group. The surgery found this to be so beneficial to their patients they recently requested they be added to the online referral portal – becoming the first GP surgery signed up to make regular referrals to HES.

Social Security
It’s clear there is scope to build on the success of this approach as the Scottish Government implements the new social security powers devolved to Scotland by the Scotland Act 2016. Social Security Scotland is the agency within the Scottish Government family which is responsible for delivering the devolved benefits. Once fully operational the Agency will provide a local presence across Scotland, providing face-to-face support and advice, supported by centralised administrative functions undertaken by staff in our Dundee headquarters and Glasgow.

Social Security Scotland staff will be in place to help people understand what devolved benefits they are entitled to, help complete applications, support people through the process and take forward any follow up actions relating to their case. They will also work closely with other advice and support organisations to help people access other forms of assistance they are eligible for and ensure that services work together to deliver the best outcomes for our clients.

A partnership between Social Security Scotland and Home Energy Scotland is already being formed. We will continue to work together to develop effective referral routes between the organisations and share best practice.

Wider Engagement & Leveraged Funding
To ensure ‘value for money’ under our national fuel poverty programme, Warmer Homes Scotland ( WHS), Warmworks – who are contracted to deliver the programme on behalf of the Scottish Government – is required to leverage funding from sources other than the core Scottish Government budget in order to increase the number of households that can benefit from the scheme. To achieve this Warmworks are developing strategic partnerships with a variety of different stakeholders, such as Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks ‘Enabling Funding’. This fund was set up in November 2016 to help customers in SSEN-supplied areas who require additional work that is not included in the Warmer Homes Scotland grant to be carried out in preparation for their installation.

Warmworks also continues to work with Scottish Gas Networks to ensure households can access the ‘Help to Heat’ scheme, which offers free or discounted connections to the gas network for households that are in fuel poverty or at risk of living in fuel poverty. In total, the monetary value leveraged into Warmer Homes Scotland through these partnerships – SSEN Enabling Funding, ECO and SGN Connections – during 2016/17 was £931,276. This additional funding is important to the long-term sustainability of Warmer Homes Scotland, particularly given the current economic climate and public sector budget constraints.

The valuable partnerships that Warmworks has developed to continue to improve delivery of the WHS programme delivers wider economic benefits as well that can help to strengthen a local community’s economic growth prospects, indirectly building resilience against the likelihood of a household falling into fuel poverty. For example, as part of its contract to deliver the scheme Warmworks also delivers a range of community benefits, including targets on employment and training. To date, Warmer Homes Scotland has helped to create, secure and support over 300 jobs across Scotland, including the islands. In January 2018, there were 89 modern apprentices involved in the delivery of the scheme.

National Strategic-Level Governance
Widening the scope of organisations we engage with is crucial to the delivery of this strategy and isn’t for HES to pursue alone. At a national governance level, the independent Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel and Partnership Forum groups provide a route for new strategic partnerships to be explored. For example, the independent Chair of these advisory groups has met with the Chair of the Poverty & Inequality Commission to discuss how their groups can best work together moving forward to ensure cross-fertilisation of experience and alignment of advice. The Chairs have agreed to share the groups’ work-plans and will each make an effort to attend at least one meeting of the other group per year, where possible.

Members of the Commission were also provided an open offer to meet with any Member of the Advisory Panel, as appropriate, as part of a broader educational process to ensure a shared understanding of the key issues surrounding fuel poverty. The Commission and Advisory Panel will also work collaboratively to inform advice to the Scottish Government on implementation of the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.


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