Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill and Fuel Poverty Strategy: health impact assessment

Health Impact Assessment on the policy development of the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill and Fuel Poverty Strategy.

11. Taking partnership engagement forward.

We know that many of our existing partnerships are working well, in particular in terms of the number and range of households already accessing the HES service.

However, there is real potential to maximise efficiency through partnership working, and more flexible use of the existing workforce i.e. less people going into homes to do different things and more piggy-backing of tasks and different services. This approach does not imply extra people and services are required, but collaborative working between of existing resources that are in a position to identify individuals living in cold homes and experiencing fuel poverty.

The partnership approach needs to go beyond the operational level and be matched by cross-departmental working at all levels in order to put individual and community needs at the centre of policy and practice. It will operate within the framework of the new fuel poverty strategy to ensure there is an adequate level of support in all parts of Scotland. It will improve health outcomes and help address inequalities, and reduce the burden on public services caused by poor health.

In practice, this means:

  • Connecting with individuals and families from a more holistic perspective.
  • Analysing the data routinely collected across a range of sectors to identify indicators of fuel poverty.
  • Being more radical and innovative about sharing information and data, that when connected, might highlight concerns regarding fuel poverty.
  • Checking wherever the risk of fuel poverty seems likely.

We appreciate that partnership approaches will vary across Scotland and should be tailored to the specific needs of the area.

However, each should be able to provide a complete and co-ordinated service addressing all four causes of fuel poverty as part of efforts to secure wellbeing and tackle inequalities.

Responses to the consultation on the fuel poverty strategy highlighted the benefits of working with local partners and at a community-level. We will encourage 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 or willing 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 from HES from local services, including those working within the health and social care sector.

We will also explore the potential of more use of outreach and in-person approaches, including use of local organisations that households at risk from the adverse health outcomes of fuel poverty are more likely to engage with as a means of identifying needs and providing fuel poverty advice and referring on for support from the most appropriate organisation.

HES Homecare Pilot

Is a locally based and delivered scheme to provide targeted in home support to households most at risk to the adverse health outcomes of fuel poverty in two rural areas. HES Homecare delivers housing improvements alongside energy efficiency improvements, including advice on tariffs and switching and is delivered through partnerships with housing, health and social care and care and repair services. The pilot will be evaluated and will feed into the development of the advice and support provision required to effectively deliver Energy Efficient Scotland (formerly SEEP).

The Scotland Act 2016 devolved new social security powers to Scotland and we are committed to establishing an agency within the Scottish Government family to deliver the devolved benefits. Locally based agency staff will provide people with one-to-one support and help them understand what devolved benefits they are entitled to, help complete applications, support people through the process and any follow up actions relating to their case.

A partnership with HES is already being formed to ensure those locally based agencies will be able to refer individuals who are having difficulty paying for their energy bills for appropriate support. Training of local advisors is also being planned, so that this referral route is embedded from the outset.

At a national level we will undertake further engagement with NHS Health Scotland to establish links to the most appropriate contacts within the NHS to take forward the fuel poverty agenda within the wider health and social care sector to help us identify and sign post individuals that are vulnerable to the effects of living in a cold home and experiencing fuel poverty.

Local Authorities and Community Planning Partnerships also have an important role to play in how we identify those most in need and we will actively encourage engagement and collaborative working with signposting to HES for advice and support.

Consideration will be given to the potential for data sharing between stakeholders (subject to new General Data Protection Regulation introduced in May 2018) to provide and support opportunities for local partnerships to identify people living in cold homes and assist in targeting activity where health benefits can also be achieved.

The following data sources could provide opportunities for the local partnerships to identify the fuel poor and trigger a fuel poverty assessment:

  • Council tax rebate data includes details of income, housing costs and council tax band. This could be linked to EPC data for a more complete picture of the household and property;
  • Housing benefit data (soon to be housing element of Universal Credit);
  • Scottish Welfare Fund grants, free school meals take up, clothing grants and discretionary housing payment claims;
  • Energy use data held by the supplier which can highlight unusual patterns of bills. This information could be used to trigger a fuel poverty assessment. Smart meters may play a useful part in identifying those likely to be experiencing fuel poverty;
  • Department of Work and Pensions (and in the future, the new Scottish Social Security Agency) hold data on households dependent on benefits; and
  • Health data could be used to target those frequently using health services for conditions that could be aggravated by living in a cold home e.g. respiratory problem), allergies and asthma.

Training and support available to partners

We appreciate that there may be a challenge for front line staff to be in a position to identify the risk of fuel poverty and feel confident in "asking the question" to enable signposting the individual or making a direct referral to a source of support.

HES have developed a partnership engagement training tool that offers advice on how to identify individuals in fuel poverty and the advice and support that is available, including referrals to Scottish Government energy efficiency schemes. HES have also developed and provide training on their online secure referral portal that allows seamless and instant referrals to HES. The stakeholder can also track the referral to the actual outcome for the client.

Energy Action Scotland also provide free "Stay Warm and Stay Well" training courses for front line staff who look after the health, wellbeing and social welfare of clients who may be at risk to the adverse health outcomes of fuel poverty.

This course raises awareness of the impact of fuel poverty and cold homes on people's health and enables those working directly with households to provide practical and effective support and how to sign post to appropriate organisations and agencies for support.

Training materials has also been developed for the Shelter Scotland Healthy Homes project which helps health and social care workers spot signs of fuel poverty and know how and where to refer patients for help.

All of these training mediums explain how to identify people living in cold homes and make referrals to the most appropriate organisations who can offer help and support in a sensitive manner that does not create any additional pressure on the householder.


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