Concern as number of households in fuel poverty rose by 36,000

The number of Scottish households living in fuel poverty increased by 36,000 during 2018, though the level of extreme fuel poverty has continued to fall, official figures have revealed.

Concern as number of households in fuel poverty rose by 36,000

The first release of information from the Scottish House Condition Survey (SHCS) for the year January to December 2018 was published today by the Scottish Government.

Among its key findings, the report found that the level of fuel poverty in 2018 remained similar to 2017: 25.0% or 619,000 households were fuel poor, with 11.3% or 279,000 households living in extreme fuel poverty. This compares to the 23.7% or 583,000 fuel poor households in 2017, with 11.9% or 293,000 households living in extreme fuel poverty.

There has been little change in the fuel poverty rate over the past three years, but there has been a reduction from the peak of 31.7%, or 761,000 households, in 2013.

Levels of extreme fuel poverty have been decreasing since the peak in 2013 of 16.0%, or 384,000 households.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said the fall in the number of households in extreme fuel poverty was “encouraging”, but added that “numbers still remain unacceptably high”.

The publication provides figures on fuel poverty, energy efficiency, the condition of housing, the Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS) and other key descriptors of the occupied housing stock in Scotland.

In 2018, 43% of Scottish homes were in the highest energy efficiency bands, C or better, and half had an energy efficiency rating of 67 or higher (using Standard Assessment Procedure 2012, Reduced Data Standard Assessment Procedure version 9.93).

Using Standard Assessment Procedure 2009 allows the longer-term trend to be explored and shows strong improvement in the energy efficiency profile of housing. The share of the most energy efficient dwellings, those rated C or better, increased from 24% in 2010 to 49% in 2018. In the same period, the proportion of properties in the lowest EPC bands (E, F or G) more than halved, reducing from 27% to 12%.

The level of disrepair increased 7 percentage points on 2017, with 75% of all dwellings having some degree of disrepair, however minor. The increase is likely driven by the increase in disrepair to critical elements, which increased 7 percentage points from 50% in 2017, to 57% in 2018.

The Scottish Housing Quality Standard failure rate in the social sector was 36%, not allowing for abeyances and exemptions which are taken into account by the Scottish Housing Regulator. This has fallen from 60% in 2010.

Overcrowding levels in Scotland remain unchanged: 2%, or 53,000 households, were living in overcrowded accommodation in 2018.

Commenting on the release, Sally Thomas, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), said: “While we welcome the decrease in housing association tenants living in extreme fuel poverty, fuel poverty levels remain higher in the social housing sector than they are in the private rented sector – this is despite energy efficiency levels being higher in the social housing sector.

“Last year, an SFHA survey found an increase in the number of tenants experiencing, or at risk of, fuel poverty – rising energy prices and welfare reform were cited as reasons.

“No one should be struggling to afford to heat their home or living in fuel poverty. The UK Government must take urgent action to raise social security in line with inflation to ensure no-one has to choose between heating or eating.

“Housing associations and co-operatives are working hard to make their homes more energy efficient and to reduce the cost of heating them for their tenants. However, it is vital that funding is increased for social landlords so they can continue to help the government to meet its ambitious fuel poverty targets. Additional funding is required for both the installation of energy efficiency measures and face to face advice, which is crucial to addressing fuel poverty.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “At Shelter Scotland, we are concerned to see the total number of households living in fuel poverty at 618,000 in 2018, up from 583,000 households the previous year.

“It is shocking to think that a quarter of households face a struggle to keep their homes warm and put hot food on the table in a wealthy nation such as ours.

“While some progress has been made on the housing conditions people face hundreds of thousands are denied their basic right of a warm and healthy home. We must see investment in new social homes built to good standards and improvements to the existing buildings which most people call home.”

Norman Kerr OBE, director of Energy Action Scotland, added: “Energy Action Scotland are hugely disappointed that the work to tackle fuel poverty has had so little effect to date. That one quarter of households in Scotland are struggling to maintain a warm home, to cook food or heat water to wash is staggering in an energy producing country as wealthy as ours.

“Scottish Government has made great progress in restoring focus on fuel poverty as a national priority but clearly we need much more investment and action to tackle high bills and hard to heat homes.

“Scotland has already failed in its target to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016. The new target of reducing fuel poverty levels to 5% by 2040 is going to require us to do much more, better and faster if we are to save another generation from living in cold, damp homes.”

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) is calling on the Scottish Government to double energy efficiency spending in the upcoming budget to help make homes more energy-efficient.

CAS fair markets spokesperson, Dr Jamie Stewart, said: “These figures are a sorry state of affairs for Scotland. Over 600,000 homes in fuel poverty, and 279,000 in extreme fuel poverty shows the staggering scale of this problem.

“Every year the Citizens Advice network in Scotland helps tens of thousands of people with energy-related issues with many of them dealing with unaffordable energy costs coupled with living in homes which are hard to heat.

“The first step in tackling fuel poverty must be to help those struggling to keep their homes warm. That’s why in the upcoming Scottish budget we want the Scottish Government to commit to doubling spending on energy efficiency.

“These figures also highlight the importance of Big Energy Saving Week which we are running this week.

“Last year, the Citizens Advice network in Scotland helped people who came to use with energy-related issues save on average £232 per case. That’s a huge amount for someone living in fuel poverty.

“So if you are struggling with your energy bills, visit your local bureau where you can get specialist advice on how you can save money.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Making sure everyone has a safe, warm place to call home is central to the Scottish Government’s drive for a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.

“It is encouraging to see the number of households in extreme fuel poverty is steadily falling, but numbers still remain unacceptably high which is why we introduced the Fuel Poverty Act, passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament last year.

“It is the most ambitious and comprehensive fuel poverty legislation in the UK, setting us on a course to eradicate fuel poverty and also provide greater help for people who need it most. We will publish a strategy later this year setting out the actions we will take to tackle all four drivers of fuel poverty.

“Last year 15,000 Scottish households saved more than £4.6 million on fuel bills as a result of energy efficiency measures installed through the Scottish Government’s schemes, such as insulation, double glazing and heating controls.

“By the end of 2021, we will have allocated more than £1 billion since 2009 to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency to make homes warmer and cheaper to heat.”

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