Guest blog: Ann Loughrey, Chair of the Independent Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel
In this day and age, it is unacceptable that people in Scotland can’t heat their homes properly or pay for the energy to cook their food.
I am proud that as a nation we are tackling this issue. It is a challenging but exciting time because today the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill will be debated in Parliament.
I am sorry not to be there to listen in person but I am chairing the first meeting in 2019 of the Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel in Glasgow. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had many one-to-one discussions with members of the Panel. Today we are meeting with a renewed sense of purpose, looking forward to what will be a really busy year as the Bill moves through Parliament and work begins to develop the final Fuel Poverty Strategy.
The Panel worked hard last year and our efforts are paying off. I was pleased to see that Kevin Stewart, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning has committed to a number of amendments to the Bill. I am particularly pleased that the additional costs of living in remote rural, remote small towns and the islands will be taken into account through an uplift to the Minimum Income Standard. This is an issue the Panel agreed needed to be addressed and we raised this with the Minister when we met with him last year.
People are at the heart of what we do
During my discussions with Panel Members over the past few weeks one issue has been raised consistently – the importance of hearing from those living in fuel poverty. As a Panel we welcome the requirement in the Bill for consultation with people who are living, or who have lived in fuel poverty before the Fuel Poverty Strategy is published.
But it is not enough just to consult with people with lived experience of fuel poverty – what matters is listening and ensuring that these people are at the centre of what we do. Ensuring that this is the case is going to be an important part of the Panel’s work in 2019.
Providing help and support
One of the other issues that has been raised in my discussions with Panel members is how people in fuel poverty access help and information. We think this is an area that is vital to our collective aim to eradicate fuel poverty. We will be considering how people access help and support – and not just in relation to fuel poverty – to look at how there can be a joined up holistic approach to helping some of our most vulnerable people.
As we meet today we are looking forward to 2019: to the continued passage of the Bill through Parliament and the development of the Fuel Poverty Strategy. Our work plan will be both interesting and busy. But more importantly, we look forward to a day when we are no longer needed and that no one in Scotland is living in fuel poverty.
Kevin Stewart, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning commented:
“I really valued the work of the Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel in 2018 – their views were instrumental in shaping our policy and the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill.
“We can only eradicate fuel poverty through a collective effort. The wealth of knowledge and experience brought by Panel members and their organisations plays an important role in our endeavours.
“I look forward to hearing their work plans for 2019 and I am confident that their work will continue to inform and shape our work in Government.”
Find out more about the work of the Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel