by a Newsnet reporter
Up to 7,000 new households will shortly qualify for Scotland’s energy efficiency measures – bringing into the scope of the scheme carers who look after family or friends.
Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment, Alex Neil, confirmed that, from 30th November 2011 onwards, new Scottish Parliament regulations extend the eligibility for the Energy Assistance Package to include people in receipt of the Carer’s Allowance.
Mr Neil said: “We recognise the enormous pressures being placed on family budgets as a result of ever increasing fuel costs. As we head into winter more and more people will find it a challenge to adequately heat their homes. By extending our Energy Assistance Package to include people receiving Carer’s Allowance, we can go some way to helping around 7,000 carers reduce their heating bills and encourage greater efficiency of energy used at home.”
Since the scheme was launched in April 2009, the Energy Assistance Package has given advice to more than 200,000 people and provided heating measures (including complete heating systems and boilers) to 21,000 households, reducing overall family heating bills by approximately £12 million.
Mr Neil added: “Carers can be called on to support family and friends 24/7 so it is vitally important that they are eligible for the right assistance and avoid falling into fuel poverty.”
Norman Kerr, Director of fuel poverty charity, Energy Action Scotland, said: “This move by the Scottish Government to open the Energy Assistance Package to people in receipt of Carer’s Allowance is very welcome.”
“It is important to expand the eligibility of the Energy Assistance Package to ensure that as many vulnerable groups as possible can benefit from the scheme. We would encourage people who may be eligible, and those who come into contact with carers in the course of their work, to call the Government’s *helpline for more information.”
The announcement comes in the wake of escalating energy bills as power companies increase their charges, Scottish and Southern Energy, British Gas and Scottish Power have all raised their prices this summer.
An estimated forty per cent of the Scottish population are living in, or are close to living in, fuel poverty. In June this year Finance Secretary John Swinney asked for an urgent meeting with bosses of Scottish power after the utility firm announced it was raising the cost of gas by 19% and the cost of electricity by 10%.
Energy is a devolved matter and the Westminster government has asked the industry regulator Ofgem to investigate energy pricing.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government says that successful applications by carers to the scheme should receive energy assistance before the winter of 2012 – some may be approved before this winter’s end 2011-12. However, with so many applications expected for the Carer’s Allowance, after 30th November 2011, it is not sure if all who are eligible can expect to get help in time for this winter.
For free expert energy advice phone Energy Savings Scotland advice centre (ESSAC) network on *0800 512 012.