New round of £2m Social Housing Fuel Support Fund announced
With soaring energy bills and the cost of living crisis severely affecting social housing tenants across Scotland, financial support has been announced for housing associations and co-operatives to help tenants who are in, or at risk of, fuel poverty.
Cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport Michael Matheson announced a new £2 million round of the Social Housing Fuel Support Fund on Friday at Wheatley Group’s head office in Glasgow. The announcement came as Ofgem announced further energy price cap changes.
First launched in 2020/2021, the Social Housing Fuel Support Fund is part of the Scottish Government’s wider £10 million Fuel Insecurity Fund. The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) is administering the Social Housing Fuel Support Fund for registered social landlords to provide direct support for their tenants who are struggling with energy costs.
A report has also been released on the impact of the previous round of funding. In total, 41 organisations directly received funding, with a further 24 accessing fuel vouchers for their tenants through one of the main funding recipients. Thanks to the funding, housing associations and co-operatives, from across Scotland, representing rural, island and urban communities, were able to help their tenants.
The funding resulted in:
- nearly 16,000 fuel vouchers being distributed to tenants, with a total value of £783,314
- direct financial support being provided to over 4,000 tenants
- energy advice, including help with energy use or switching to a cheaper supplier, being provided to over 4,000 tenants
- debt being reduced for 1,475 tenants and 900 tenants becoming debt free.
Cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport Michael Matheson said: “This is a deeply unsettling time for households, and the Scottish Government, alongside our trusted partners, including the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, continue to do everything we can to provide support through the cost crisis – particularly those most at risk of, or already in, fuel poverty.
“As part of nearly £3 billion allocated to help households face the increased cost of living this financial year, we have committed £10 million through our Fuel Insecurity Fund, specifically to target households rationing their energy use, or self-disconnecting entirely. This latest round of investment, delivered through the Social Housing Fuel Support Fund by SFHA, will enable social landlords to deliver direct, tangible help to some of the most vulnerable households in Scotland.”
Sally Thomas, SFHA chief executive, said: “With energy bills set to soar even further this autumn, this is timely and important funding from the Scottish Government for another round of the Social Housing Fuel Support Fund for people living in social housing. This support is needed now more than ever, so social landlords can continue their vital work in tackling fuel poverty and tenants are helped with spiralling costs.
“As with previous rounds of the fund, it will mean housing associations and co-operatives can provide practical and financial support, helping tenants to keep their homes warm and manage their energy bills. The impact of this on people’s lives cannot be overestimated at a time when so many are already struggling with their fuel costs and fearful about what is yet to come.
“We will continue to work with the Scottish Government, so we can bring much-needed support like this to people who are struggling during the energy and cost of living crises.”
Wheatley has previously received £750,000 funding from the Social Housing Fuel Support Fund.
Laura Pluck, Wheatley Group director of communities, said: “During these tough times, it’s more important than ever we help our tenants save money and keep warm in their homes.
“This latest funding from Scottish Government, combined with our own wraparound support services, will help us support our tenants during the cost of living crisis.
“We’d urge any of our tenants who are worried about heating their home to contact us straight away. We have a wide range of support services for tenants who are worried about money, putting food on the table, furnishing their home and getting into debt.”
The third round of the Social Housing Fuel Support Fund will open on 29 August via the SFHA website. The fund is for housing associations and co-operatives to help tenants who are in, or at risk of, fuel poverty.
The SFHA has put together this FAQs feature on the fund.
What can the fund be used for?
This funding will cover projects and activities that support social housing tenants against the impact of fuel poverty. This may include expansion of existing activities or new activities, provided these can be reasonably organised within the set timescales. SFHA is open to ideas regarding how the funds could be spent, however, examples include:
- Fuel top-ups: This may involve purchasing fuel vouchers or making direct payments to tenants/energy suppliers. RSLs may already have an established relationships with third party organisations that administer fuel vouchers, and depositing funds with this type of organisation would also be permitted.
- Outreach activities: This may involve hosting online activities, events or one-to-one sessions for tenants as long as these can be delivered within the timescales. This may also include producing supporting materials or digital content that can be shared with tenants.
- Purchasing energy-efficient products: This may involve purchasing goods or appliances that help to reduce tenants’ energy bills or improve warmth. Examples could include offering energy-efficient lightbulbs, essential warmth items such as high tog duvets, or low-energy use appliances such as slow cookers or air fryers.
- External Services: This may involve buying in external services from energy advice or fuel poverty organisations. However, you cannot use the funds for internal staffing costs.
Is there a cut-off date for applications, given the need for these to be approved and spent by 31 March 2023?
SFHA will be reviewing applications on an ongoing basis and would encourage applications to be submitted as soon as possible. The Scottish Government has advised that all funds need to be spent by RSLs by the end of the financial year (31 March 2023).
Can the funds be distributed to tenants after 31 March 2023 as long as the funds have been spent by the RSL by the deadline?
Applicants should focus on activities that allow for budgeted spends to be carried out before 31 March 2023. This may involve depositing funds with a third-party organisation or purchasing items, such as fuel vouchers, which are then distributed beyond the deadline as long as the funds are deposited or spent by the RSL by 31 March 2023.
How long will it take for a project to be given the go-ahead to start?
SFHA aims to assess applications within seven days of receipt of a completed form and will notify successful applicants shortly thereafter. Funds will be sent via bank transfer to the account details, provided on the application form upon receipt of a signed acceptance of the grant.
Can the fund be used to support tenants who are experiencing, or are at risk of experiencing, fuel poverty for the first time?
Yes, the Scottish Government is keen that this funding reaches those who need it, which includes tenants on the cusp who may otherwise fall through the gaps or do not meet the eligibility criteria for other financial assistance.
When does the fund close?
The fund will close once funds have been fully allocated.
Full details, including FAQs and the application form are available via this link.
If you have any questions or want to speak to SFHA about your proposals ahead of submitting your application, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org