Pension Age Winter Heating Payment (PAWHP): consultation analysis

We are introducing Pension Age Winter Heating Payment (PAWHP) in winter 2024/25 as a like-for-like replacement for the UK Government’s Winter Fuel Payment. This report analyses the responses from the public consultation on PAWHP that ran between 23 October 2023 and 15 January 2024.

8. Remote rural and island communities

Q5 and Q19 addressed the needs of remote rural and island communities. Despite having slightly different focuses, the same themes were evident across both questions. To avoid repetition, we have presented the analysis of responses to both questions below, based on the prevalence of themes in Q5.

Q5. How could we improve delivery for households in remote rural and island communities that are not on the gas grid?

Q19. Please set out any information you wish to share on the impact of PAWHP on Island communities.

Two thirds of respondents answered Q5; the second highest level of response in the consultation. However, one third of those answering did not leave a substantive comment. Many stated they did not know, which was the most prevalent theme at this question. In addition, several acknowledged they did not live in remote rural or island communities and so could not comment, with several others suggesting that the Scottish Government should ask people in those communities directly. Just under one quarter answered Q19. Similarly, three in ten of these respondents stated they did not know or did not have the experience to answer, making this the second most prevalent theme at this question.

Consider alternative fuels or approaches

The most prevalent theme, raised by many of those who provided a substantive comment in Q5, was a range of suggestions for promoting alternative fuels or approaches to alleviate fuel poverty in these communities. There were frequent suggestions to use oil or bottled gas, and a few suggested that the Scottish Government should supply or stockpile alternative fuels. Others commented on Scotland’s potential to generate renewable energy and suggested greater investment in, or subsidising the use of, wind and solar energy and heat pumps. Improving the insulation, energy efficiency and heating systems of rural housing stock was also suggested.

“The Scottish Government should consider further support beyond the confines of PAWHP to specifically address the additional costs and challenges associated with being off grid, for example subsidising fuel costs and funding energy efficiency and retrofitting measures.” – The ALLIANCE

Higher value payment

Calls for a larger payment to remote rural and island households was the second most common theme in Q5 and also raised by some in Q19. Many respondents argued that there should be a higher, additional or supplementary payment made to these households, given the higher cost of gas alternatives and higher levels of fuel poverty. Organisations, including the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), Energy Action Scotland and Age Scotland, suggested a ‘rural uplift’ or premium. Some suggested ways in which the additional payment could be calculated or weighted, such as looking at the price difference between gas central heating compared to coal, oil or peat, comparing temperature differences or wind chill factors, or considering the higher cost-of-living.

“Look at actual costs incurred in heating by both cohorts and weight on the basis of those using gas to be the benchmark cost and where off-grid costs are different/greater, the payment should be increased accordingly.” – Individual

“This is tricky, but I can see no problem with enhanced payments to defined postcodes based on remoteness and possible climatic factors.” – Individual

“Rural and island communities often have higher energy prices, combined with older housing that is inefficient and colder temperatures. Many are also off-grid and must rely on more expensive heating sources. The PAWHP is even more vital to older people in these communities because of this, and as we have noted throughout, a ‘rural’ or ‘cold weather’ increase to the payment for those most affected by cold weather and inefficient housing which cannot be retrofitted should be considered.” – Age Scotland

Remote rural and island communities should not be treated differently

The aim of Q5 was to establish what else could be done when administering and delivering PAWHP to better support remote rural and island communities. However, many respondents interpreted the question as asking whether households in these communities should receive PAWHP, or not. Because of this, another prevalent theme was that the value and delivery of PAWHP should be no different in these areas than in the rest of Scotland. Respondents typically argued that because PAWHP is a universal cash payment it can be used by households for whatever fuel they need, including oil or bottled gas, and should not depend on location or type of fuel used.

This was the third most prevalent theme in Q19, which focused on island communities specifically to gather evidence for the Island Communities Impact Assessment. While some made the same argument, some others answered Q19 from a different perspective, arguing that island communities were equally as entitled to the payment as people living elsewhere in Scotland.

“Can't see the relevance of this question. If homes don't have gas they'll use another form of energy to heat their homes so the fuel payment going into their bank accounts works just fine.” - Individual

“Island Communities should not be differentiated from rural dwellers not on the Gas Grid. Both require significant additional support.” - Individual

Earlier or more flexible payment

Many respondents advocated for payment to be made earlier, or for greater flexibility around when the payment is made. Most commonly, respondents highlighted that households in these areas may need or prefer to bulk buy fuel in the summer or autumn when prices are cheaper. There were calls for payment in October or early November, rather than late November or December. A few called for information about the value and timing of payment to be communicated as soon as possible to allow households to budget, even if the payment is then made later.

“Making the payment as early as possible in November and December would probably assist those in remote communities. This is the best compromise that we can think of given the difficulties in making separate payments to those who are off grid etc.” – Inclusion Scotland

Delivery of the payment

Some respondents interpreted the question as the delivery of the payment. There were two strands to these comments. Most respondents either stated there should be no issues in rural areas as the payment is made directly into bank account, or called for the payment to be made direct to households, as is proposed.

Less commonly mentioned themes

Some respondents each raised the following themes:

  • The greater need for support in these communities due to issues such as colder or more inclement weather and poorer quality housing stock. General comments reiterating why island communities need and would benefit from additional support was the most prevalent theme in Q19, raised by several respondents. SFHA cited Changeworks’ 2023 report ‘A Perfect Storm: Fuel Poverty in Rural Scotland’ as evidence of the need to support these households with their energy bills.
  • Ways to identify or contact people who are not on the gas grid to ensure they receive sufficient support. Identifying off-gas grid households by postcode was frequently suggested, followed by getting the information from local authorities. A few argued that these households should be easily identifiable from existing data.
  • Calls for the gas grid to be extended to areas that cannot currently access it, that there should be improvements to Scotland’s capacity to generate and distribute electricity, or that the costs of electricity should be subsidised.
  • A view that there is no need for an earlier payment to these communities.
  • The use or lack of gas is irrelevant, given the Scottish Government’s aim to end the use of gas boilers and decarbonise heating.

A few respondents each:

  • Called for consideration to be given to other areas which are not on the gas grid but are also not remote rural or island locations, or noted that there are many electricity-only households in urban areas that are disadvantaged because of the higher price of electricity compared to gas.
  • Suggested alternative approaches to providing support, including creating a separate support fund which could be applied for, reflecting fuel type used in the value of payment, or eligible households being given a council tax rebate.
  • Stated in Q19 that they believed PAWHP would have no specific impact on island communities.
  • Expressed a view in Q5 and Q19 that individuals had made a choice to live in remote or island communities and should be responsible for their own situations.



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