Increased benefits equals cosier homes
The Regulated Social Fund includes several types of payment. One of these is Cold Weather Payment, a payment for individuals on certain benefits when the temperature is either recorded as, or forecast to be, an average of zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days.
In Scotland we recognise that it is low incomes and high-cost fuel, as well as energy inefficient buildings, that affect people’s ability to keep their homes warm. That is why Home Energy Scotland, Scottish Government’s energy advice service does more than just offer energy advice.
A growing number of Scottish households struggle to afford to heat their homes in the context of rising fuel prices. Fuel bills have risen nearly six times faster than household incomes since 2003. In 2013, the average UK household’s dual fuel energy bill was £1306 – £78 higher than the previous year and £450 higher than in 2007.
So to help households cope with these price increases, in addition to free and impartial energy advice, Home Energy Scotland gives advice on cutting the cost of domestic fuel and offers benefit and tax credit checks. The latter are provided through partnerships with Citizens Advice Direct, who provide telephone benefit checks for those aged under 60, and the Department for Work and Pensions, who provide benefit checks including in the homes of those people aged 60 or more.
For those households getting an increase in benefits following these checks the average annual increase is £2,540. This additional income is more than the average fuel bill and should give households the confidence to use their heating to keep warm and reduce the stress and worry of meeting heating bills.
“Thank you… I now get Carers Allowance and my wife is on PIP. I did not know that I could get benefit from the state before I contacted Home Energy Scotland, and this has had a positive effect on our lives.”
Home Energy Scotland Customer
Across all households getting benefit checks through Home Energy Scotland in a year, this equates to around a £2.4million annual increase in benefits.
One thing leads to another
Households who claim benefits that they had previously not claimed at all often find that receipt of these benefits then opens up eligibility to other support. This may include free or discounted energy efficiency measures, which Home Energy Scotland supports them to access.
“I am delighted with Home Energy Scotland as I hadn’t been on benefits until you referred me for a check and I was then awarded Carers Allowance. I had been advised to contact Home Energy Scotland if I had got any award and I was subsequently referred for the Energy Assistance Scheme. I will have heating installed next week and I am really grateful for your efforts on my behalf.”
Home Energy Scotland Customer
Working with others to improve access to services
Home Energy Scotland puts in place referral mechanisms with other advice agencies and service providers to provide two-way routes to support for householders and is always keen to establish new partnerships. As a well as a national liaison officer we have community liaison officers in the five regional Home Energy Scotland offices working with agencies in their areas.
Anyone can call Home Energy Scotland on 0808 808 2282.
Opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm.
 Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland Benefit and Tax Credit Checks Evaluation March 2015, research interviewed households who had received benefit checks in 2013-14.