RIHAF and SFHA to tackle fuel poverty through new strategy

Di Alexander

Di Alexander

As the Scottish Government prepares to begin a consultation in to fuel poverty, a new strategy has been drafted which could be adopted by the Rural & Islands Housing Associations Forum (RIHAF) and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA).

In autumn 2017, the Scottish Government will consult on its Draft Fuel Poverty Eradication Strategy, including plans for Warm Homes Bill legislation, which will be laid before the Scottish Parliament in 2018.

Using key findings from reports by the Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group and the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force – set up by Scottish Government after its target of ending fuel poverty by October 2016 was missed – RIHAF member, and SFHA Board director, Di Alexander, has drafted for discussion a potential fuel poverty strategy that its hoped could influence the Scottish Government’s emerging fuel poverty strategy.

The discussion paper comprises 10 points:

  1. Deliver fairness and social justice – wherever you happen to live
    The Scottish Government’s new strategic approach should be based on ensuring that its fuel poverty/affordable warmth policy opportunities will not, in practice, be constrained by geography but will be delivered equitably and consistently across Scotland.
  2. People-centred solutions first and foremost – shift emphasis from energy efficiency (suggest change to ‘focus on outcomes for individuals as well as energy efficiency’) 
    A person-centred approach would represent a shift of emphasis from current energy efficiency and fuel poverty programmes which have primarily focused on improving the energy efficiency of the housing stock through fabric improvements. In addition to investing in retrofit there needs to be tailored advice and support. Any interventions should be based on a person’s particular needs.
  3. Vulnerable households should get top priority
    All vulnerable households should receive the type and level of personalised outreach support they need to resolve the causes of their fuel poverty properly and be able to live in affordable warmth in their own homes.
  4. Target off-gas areas
    The Scottish Government should identify specific measures to support customers in rural and off-gas grid areas who have to pay higher energy prices than the rest of Scotland.
  5. Help high tariff electricity customers save money on their bills
    The new fuel poverty strategy should include direct support to the fuel poor or those at risk of fuel poverty on switching to the best tariff. A key objective of the Scottish Government’s new fuel poverty/affordable warmth strategy must focus on leading a well-co-ordinated switching campaign.
  6. Use and expand the network of local, trusted organisations 
    The fuel poverty strategy should include the participation of local, trusted organisations which provide wider support to householders on the use and management of heating systems.
  7. Revise and update indicators such as SAP and SIMD
    Underlying fuel poverty indicators and assumptions, such as SIMD and RdSAP, tend to be urban-oriented and do not reflect rural realities nor assess and record affordable warmth and comfort improvements effectively – either those required or actually. All such indicators should be subject to a through ‘rural-proofing’ process and made fit for purpose. These indicators also need to be able to respond quickly to new technologies and approaches.
  8. Foster and support community-controlled cheaper energy projects
    Scottish Government should include fuel poverty alleviation as a central objective in the new Scottish Energy Policy, working to create affordable and secure energy supplies through the development of local energy systems, creating and sustaining local jobs.
  9. Target state benefits more effectively towards those in greatest need
    The Scottish Government should use its devolved powers regarding the Warm Home Discount Scheme to better target support to those most in need and take full account of the locality effects of cold, wind and rain.
  10. Ensure new strategy is rigorously assessed on the basis of affordable warmth outcomes achieved and not just on energy efficiency input assumptions
    The strategy needs to ensure that fuel poverty policies and programmes are developed and further improved on the basis of thorough measurement and assessment of the before-and-after outcomes of the effectiveness of the interventions made, especially to the well-being of those helped.

RIHAF members said they would like to see two other key points included: on a) the importance that delivering affordable warmth has for improving people’s health and well-being and generating value for public money benefits and b) the economic as well as the social benefits that should flow to rural communities from good, locally-delivered affordable warmth programmes.

Both the RIHAF and SFHA have agreed to work together to try and influence the Scottish Government’s Draft Fuel Poverty Eradication Strategy, and that Di’s discussion paper  should be taken forward to a future SFHA board meeting for discussion.