Frontline health and social care staff urged to spot signs of fuel poverty

fuel povertyHealth and social care professionals across Scotland should be trained to spot the signs of fuel poverty and refer households for help, according to Shelter Scotland.

The national housing and homelessness charity, which this week will launch the national Healthy Homes project, the reach and influence of frontline staff in the health and social care sectors should be utilised to help identify the 845,000 households in fuel poverty and refer them for further support.

The charity says that such a move has the potential to save NHS Scotland up to £80 million every year.

The Healthy Homes project, which is funded by the charitable British Gas Energy Trust, aims to build relationships between health, housing and energy sectors to help them work together to address Scotland’s fuel poverty crisis.

Shelter Scotland said that almost 35 per cent of households in Scotland are in fuel poverty – a total of 845,000 families and individuals. The number of households in extreme fuel poverty in Scotland stands at 229,000.

Recent estimates claim that for every £1 spent reducing fuel poverty in Scotland, the NHS alone could save 42 pence.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Every year we hear from thousands of families and individuals making the stark choice between heating or eating, families who struggle to adequately heat their homes, plunging many into a cycle of energy debt, poor health and diminished future prospects.

“It is a badge of shame that we have not eradicated fuel poverty in 21st Scotland, especially when we know that children living in cold homes are twice as likely to have respiratory problems, and that at least 1 in 10 excess deaths each winter can be attributed to cold housing.

“Our Healthy Homes project is calling on professionals from across health, social care, housing and the energy sectors to join forces to look at innovative ways to tackle fuel poverty in Scotland, and prevent it from happening in the first place.

“Although frontline health and social care staff alone cannot rid Scotland of fuel poverty, we believe that through their reach, influence and training, as well as support from other sectors, they could hold the key to embarking on the challenge of eradicating fuel poverty from Scotland once and for all.”

In 2002 the Scottish Government committed to eradicating fuel poverty as far as is reasonably practical by November 2016, a target which Shelter Scotland believes will not be met.

As part of the Healthy Homes project Shelter Scotland has launched a training toolkit designed for frontline health and social care staff to help them identify and assess vulnerable households, recognise how to guide them out of fuel poverty by identifying savings and signposting national and local energy advice programmes. The training is particularly focused on frontline staff working with the top 10 per cent of deprived households, parents of children aged five and under and homeless households in temporary accommodation.

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