Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has welcomed a new home heating support fund which will help Scots struggling with their energy bills during the Covid lockdown.
The £4million Scottish Government scheme, which will be administered by national advice service Advice Direct Scotland, is designed to prevent households falling into fuel poverty.
The Home Heating Support Fund is open until March 31 and applications can only be made on behalf of individuals by 'Referral Partners'. (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) This includes local authorities and third sector organisations, with payments then made directly to energy suppliers on behalf of their customers. Eligibility is based on households which are ‘self-rationing’ their energy, meaning those who are deliberately limiting their energy use so that they can afford to spend money on other goods or services.
In 2019, an estimated 24.6 per cent of all households were in fuel poverty - around 613,000 households – and the pandemic has increased financial hardship for many. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has encouraged any local residents struggling with their energy bills to seek support from the fund through the energy and/or debt organisation currently providing them with advice, or by contacting Advice Direct Scotland (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) for free on 0808 800 9060.
Their expert debt advisers will assess eligibility and apply for funding on the individual’s behalf if appropriate.
Chair of Communities and Housing, Cllr Kenny John Macleod said: “The Scottish Government’s commitment of funds to help support those effected by fuel poverty is very much welcomed. Fuel poverty is an issue that disproportionately effects individuals in the Western Isles with an estimated 40% of households in fuel poverty in 2019. This will be worsened by the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. No individual in the Western Isles should be unable to heat their home or be forced to sacrifice other essentials to do so. Please do not hesitate to seek support if you need it.”
Andrew Bartlett, chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland, said: “No household should suffer in fuel poverty or have to ration fuel to get by. The Covid pandemic has increased financial hardship and many Scots have been left struggling as a result of increased energy costs while working from home or home-schooling. We are working hard to administer this new fund from the Scottish Government to ensure that fewer Scots are struggling with their energy bills. As well as working closely with partner organisations, our own expert debt advisers can also directly help individuals who have financial worries.”