The SFHA labels fuel poverty increases under new definition “deeply worrying”

Fuel poverty

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has urged the Holyrood government to fund its efforts to reduce the effects of fuel poverty.

The SFHA was responding to new proposed definitions of fuel poverty and extreme fuel poverty that are being tabled by the Scottish government.

These currently state that a household is in fuel poverty “if, in order to maintain a satisfactory heating regime, it would be required to spend more than 10% of its income on all household fuel use.

“If more than 20% of income is required, such a household is termed as being in extreme fuel poverty.”

The Scottish government’s proposed new definition suggests households in Scotland are in fuel poverty if they need to spend more than 10% of their After Housing Costs income on heating and electricity “in order to attain a healthy indoor environment that is commensurate with their vulnerability status”.

The government said if these housing and fuel costs were deducted, such households “would have less than 90% of Scotland’s Minimum Income Standard as their residual income from which to pay for all the other core necessities commensurate with a decent standard of living”.

The SFHA said the new definition would lead to a significant increase in the overall level of extreme fuel poverty, from 7% to nearly 12% in rural areas.

The poorest households, where net income was less than £200 per week, had higher rates of fuel poverty under the new definition (93%) than under the existing one (88%), and a substantially higher rate of extreme fuel poverty, up to 67% under the new definition from 39% under the existing system.

Sally Thomas, the SFHA’s chief executive, said fuel poverty levels were already a huge concern for her members and she described increases under the new definition as “deeply worrying”.

She went on: “Social landlords have been working hard to increase the energy efficiency of their properties […] However, Scottish government estimates are that the investment required by housing associations will be around £6,000 per home, with a saving to tenants of only £140 a year.”

It was vital that social landlords were eligible for grant assistance from the Scottish government to help with investment in energy efficiency, she said.

“Otherwise, there will continue to be financial pressure on low-income tenants at a time when they are already under strain from low-paid employment and the impact of changes to social security such as universal credit,” Thomas added.