Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition & Strategy) (Scotland) Bill - Stage One Briefing

Energy Action Scotland Briefing
Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition & Strategy) (Scotland) Bill Stage One debate
20 February 2019 2.00pm

Energy Action Scotland (EAS) is the Scottish charity dedicated to ending fuel poverty. EAS has been working with this remit since its inception in 1983 and has campaigned on the issue of ending fuel poverty and delivered many practical as well as research projects to tackle the problem of cold, damp homes. EAS works with both the Scottish and UK Governments on energy efficiency programme design and implementation.

EAS broadly welcomes the Scottish Government’s aim to tackle fuel poverty through the introduction of the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition & Strategy) (Scotland) Bill. This is the first time in Scotland that there has been specific legislation and a whole Bill on fuel poverty.

Proposed amendments for Stage 2

EAS has spoken with its members and discussed various issues raised within the Bill, and has developed a range of amendments intended to strengthen the Bill. Although its scope is quite narrow, there are additional opportunities to ensure that no individual is living in fuel poverty in the future.

The proposed amendments place emphasis on:

  • The fuel poverty target
  • Ensuring vulnerable groups are better represented in the Bill
  • The difficulties faced by those living in rural areas
  • Co-production with individuals with lived experience of fuel poverty
  • Strengthening the reporting and monitoring requirements

Key issues

2.1 The fuel poverty target

EAS has long argued for the fuel poverty target to be reset, however 2040 is too distant a target, it is effectively a whole generation away, and feels like “out of sight, out of mind”. In addition, for 5% of households to be left in fuel poverty is deeply unfair. SPICe had estimated in their briefing that 5% of households in 2040 could equate to 140,000 households. It is likely that this 5% will be the most hard to reach, who have been missed out by previous initiatives. A serious fuel poverty strategy would never aim for a failure. In addition, more frequent and statutory interim targets are necessary to help chart progress and stay on mission.

A number of amendments have been drafted to recognise these issues.

    1. Ensuring vulnerable groups are better represented in the Bill

The independent review panel[1], made up by experts in fuel poverty research, came to the conclusions that: the MIS thresholds should be adjusted upwards for households living in remote rural areas or where at least one member of the household suffers long-term sick or disability. A Scottish MIS could take into account those with the additional expenses due to disability which are not fully accounted for in DLA/PIP benefit payments, and those suffering with long-term ill health. We suggest that account needs to be taken of the most vulnerable, who may have higher energy use due to poor health or other situations.

EAS is also concerned that the higher heating regime will not apply to families with children under 5, who would have higher energy use. In our written evidence [2] we highlighted that there are many health conditions which have temperature vulnerability eg sickle cell anaemia sufferers, individuals with thyroid conditions. We are also concerned about the increase in the age threshold to 75 and would caution that people can be financially vulnerable at any age. This financial vulnerability could be cited as a contributing factor to poor choices about energy usage.

Our amendments in this area will include proposing a rural/disability/health premium, including social care costs alongside childcare costs in the fuel poverty definition, consultation with NHS and patient groups on which groups qualify for the enhanced heating regime

2.3 The difficulties faced by those living in rural areas

The introduction to the Fuel Poverty Bill[3] says:

“A Draft Strategy has been published alongside the Bill based on the principles of fairness and equality for all, reflecting the different needs of all of Scotland’s urban, suburban, rural and remote communities.”

One of the independent panel’s main recommendations was to have a significant mark-up within the MIS for remote rural cost of living factors. EAS suggested in our written evidence that the Scottish Government should develop its own Minimum Income Standard (MIS) as this would take into account the poverty premium experienced by those living in rural and island areas. Such a move would ensure that all of Scotland’s communities have their needs reflected in the Bill.

EAS also called for an islands impact assessment of the Bill in our written evidence, and the Local Government and Communities Committee “welcomes the Minister’s commitment to undertake an Islands Impact Assessment on all aspects of the Bill and considers that any such assessment should also cover the Draft Fuel Poverty Strategy”.

2.4 Co-production with individuals with lived experience of fuel poverty

EAS welcomes the inclusion of the requirement in the Bill for Scottish Ministers to consult with individuals who are living, or have lived, in fuel poverty, however we feel that more detail in this area is necessary as ‘consulting’  does not mean that the advice or information received will be taken on board and translated into effective actions. We feel that that the Bill needs strengthened in this area and wording changed to reflect the approach of co-design/co-production.

There is no mention in the Policy Memorandum of consultation with individuals with lived experience, despite this approach being a highlight of other recent strategies and plans eg Social Security Scotland and its Experience Panels. The Christie Commission report [4] stated that unless Scotland embraced a radical new collaborative culture in its public services, both budgets and provision would buckle under the strain. In achieving this, services must be designed with and for Scotland’s people and communities. Considering that there is no new funding for fuel poverty alongside this Bill, it would be prudent to co-design services which work for people.

The Fairer Scotland Action Plan [5] talks about people with experience of poverty speaking out and pushing for change, that people experiencing poverty are at the heart of work to overcome it.

The Local Government and Communities Committee, in its Stage 1 report[6] note that:

“It is vital that key measures and policies are informed by the views of those with first-hand knowledge of the effects and impact of fuel poverty” and “Any successful strategy cannot be “top down” if it is to successfully identify the measures best placed to help people”.

EAS has a number of proposed amendments intended to strengthen and detail the commitment to consult, and goes one step further, suggesting that to have a “bottom up” approach, having people with lived experience of fuel poverty helping to co-design the systems which will help them, would be more effective.

2.5 Strengthening the reporting and monitoring requirements

EAS has long argued for reports focussing on outcomes, and better evaluation of existing schemes so that we can learn the lessons from past projects and make changes for future projects. The Local Government and Communities Committee say in in their report that they “urge the Scottish Government to take account of the views presented by those who gave evidence, particularly on: how lessons will be learned from previous schemes, and also, how it will monitor quality and value for money of energy efficiency measures and delivery schemes”.

Reporting should also take into account all 4 drivers of fuel poverty, and the Committee’s report welcomes the Minister’s commitment to include reporting on progress against all four drivers of fuel poverty and the impact of measures to address each driver. These reports  should be publicly available.

EAS is concerned that the final date for acceptance of failure or success is in 2042, 2 whole years after the 2040 deadline. We suggested more regular reporting to allow for better monitoring of progress towards the target. The Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel and Partnership Forum also have an important role to play in monitoring the Fuel Poverty Strategy and providing advice to Ministers and this role should be strengthened. We also suggest, in our proposed amendments, that there should be a Parliamentary Committee for this work towards tackling fuel poverty.

Our proposed amendments are in Appendix 1.

Further information

For further information on this briefing and proposed amendments, please contact: Helen Melone, Research, Information and Project Officer, Energy Action Scotland at helen.melone@eas.org.uk or 0141 226 3064

 

 

Appendix 1: Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill – EAS Proposed Amendments (draft)

Amendment No

Title

Location in Bill

1

Target date to 2032

1 (1) and (2)

2

Target amount – 0% by 2040

1 (1)

3

0% by 2032

1 (1)

4

Fuel poverty support fund for the 5%

1 (1)

5

Scottish MIS

2 (6) (e) (i) and (ii)

6

Rural/disability/health premium

2 (5)

7

Adding in social care costs alongside childcare costs

2 (1) (b)

8

Enhanced heating regime consultation with NHS and patient groups

2 (4)

9

Consultation with lived experience when identifying characteristics of households in fuel poverty

3 (2) (c)

10

Fuel poverty strategy must have more detail about how lived experience is consulted with

3 (2) (b) and 4 (2)

11

Establishment of national fuel poverty truth commission

3 (2) (b) and 3 (2) (d) and 2 (2) (c)

12

Establishment of Parliamentary Committee on fuel poverty

3 (2)

13

Establishment of an independent review commission

3 (2) (b) and 4 (1)

14

Statutory interim targets

3 (2) (d) (i)

15

More frequent statutory interim targets

3 (2) (d) (i)

16

Reporting to takin into account all 4 drivers of fuel poverty

6 (1) (a)

17

Periodic reports to be published every 2 years, and a review ordered if no changes have been made

6 (4) (a) and (b)

18

Reporting period should extend after 2040

6 (3)

19

The Ministers should detail how the voice of lived experience will be consulted with regarding the periodic reports

7 (2)

20

The report on whether the target has been met should be laid no more than a year after the cessation of the target

9 (1)

21

The ‘power to modify’ should include the power to modify or add to the vulnerable groups to which the enhanced heating regime applies

10 (a)

22

More detail required on how lived experience will be included in the regulation making powers

11 (3)

23

In ‘power to modify’ add a consultation requirement

10

 

 

[1] Scottish Government, A new definition of fuel poverty in Scotland: review of recent evidence, 9 November 2017

[3] Scottish Government, Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill, 2018

[4] Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services , Christie Commission on the future delivery of public services, 2011

[5] Scottish Government , Fairer Scotland Action Plan, 2016

[6] Local Government and Communities Committee, Stage 1 Report on the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill, 29 January 2019