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Working with the health sector to tackle fuel poverty

By: Shelter Scotland
Published: January 2017

Working with the health sector to tackle fuel poverty

Over thirty per cent of all Scottish households are living in fuel poverty today, despite a Scottish Government target to eradicate it by November 2016. These 748,000 households require help and support to tackle fuel poverty and this needs to be delivered in a timely, sustainable, and equitable manner.

Government-led efforts to tackle fuel poverty have largely focused on improving the energy efficiency of housing stock. Despite the successful output of many programmes and installation of energy efficiency measures, fuel poverty levels in Scotland have more than doubled since 2003, just after the Scottish Government set the target to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016. It is clear that tackling energy efficiency alone is not enough to lift families out of fuel poverty: a wider approach is needed which looks beyond the physical building and more holistically at all causes of fuel poverty and the individual experience.

The health implications of fuel poverty are well understood and widely accepted. There are examples of excellent partnership work between the health sector and energy advice sector. However, the health sector is currently underutilised in the provision and targeting of fuel poverty support.

The health and social care workforce needs to be adequately supported and resourced to help support people in or vulnerable to fuel poverty. It needs to be made as easy as possible for the health sector to engage in this agenda.

RECOMMENDATION 1: A new fuel poverty strategy must be developed as soon as possible, as well as new targets to tackle fuel poverty including interim targets to track progress.

RECOMMENDATION 2: A new fuel poverty strategy and Warm Homes Bill must take into consideration all drivers of and possible solutions to fuel poverty.

RECOMMENDATION 3: A cross-sectoral approach is needed to tackle the plight of fuel poverty and this should be built in to any future fuel poverty strategy.

RECOMMENDATION 4: Learning from existing pilots and projects should be analysed holistically to understand what works and what the barriers are, to encourage greater partnership work between the health sector and energy advice sector.

RECOMMENDATION 5: Fuel poverty issues should be included as part of core health inequalities training. This training should be made available at an early stage of practitioner professional development, and should be mainstreamed across departments.

RECOMMENDATION 6: Potential trigger points for fuel poverty identification and action should be investigated to embed this work into standard NHS practice.