Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has welcomed the Scottish government’s announcement of a new consultation on fuel poverty strategy.
Craig Salter, energy policy officer in the Consumer Futures Unit of CAS, said:
"In today’s Scotland nobody should be struggling to heat their home.
“So we welcome the Scottish Government's consultation on a new fuel poverty definition, strategy and targets. It offers the opportunity to help ensure that those in fuel poverty receive the support that they need.
“Fuel poverty remains far too high in Scotland at over 30%, and it is crucial that any new definition helps to target support effectively at those with the greatest need, while providing safeguards to ensure that anyone who needs support does not lose out.
“As Scotland’s consumer champion we will continue to work with the Scottish Government to help ensure that its new fuel poverty strategy is sufficiently ambitious to achieve these goals, and has consumers at its heart."
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Appendix 1: Universal Credit background
Universal Credit is the most ambitious change to the social security system since its establishment. It is intended to be an integrated benefit for people both in and out of work. It brings together a range of working-age benefits into a single payment. The aims of Universal Credit are to:
- encourage people on benefits to start paid work or increase their hours by making sure work pays
- make it easier for people to manage the move into work
- simplify the system, making it easier for people to understand, and easier and cheaper for the government to administer
- reduce the number of people who are in work but still living in poverty
- reduce fraud and error
Universal Credit is intended to replace six existing benefits:
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- for people who are unemployed and looking for work
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- for people who are not able to work due to ill-health or disability.
- Housing Benefit (HB)
- to help pay rent for people who are on a low income (e.g. because they are out of work or in a low-paying job).
- Income Support (IS)
- for people who cannot work because they care for someone else (e.g. young children or an elderly or disabled relative)
- Working Tax Credit (WTC)
- is for families who work but have a low income.
- Child Tax Credit (CTC)
- is for families with low incomes and children to support.
Universal Credit also brings a number of different features from these existing benefits. It is intended to be claimed and managed online, without paper forms. A ‘claimant commitment’, setting out expectations and mandatory requirements was introduced for people who receive it. And a number of other features represent a change from the current approach, including monthly payments, payments to a household rather than individuals, and making housing payments to recipients rather than directly to landlords.
Delivering a benefit that will eventually be received by over 800,000 people in Scotland and up to eight million people across the UK is no minor reform. It will eventually encompass people at a wide range of different points of their lives and in different circumstances – in work, out of work, in sickness and in health, when single, with children, and in a range of situations where they are vulnerable and in need of financial support.
Initial rollout areas
In a few Local Authorities, Universal Credit ‘Full Service’ has been introduced, which means that all those eligible can make a claim. East Lothian was the first Local Authority to go live in March 2016, followed by Inverness at the end of June 2016. At the time of writing, there are only seven ‘Full Service’ areas across Scotland, namely: East Lothian, Inverness, East Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Clackmannanshire and Stirling, but the rollout continues throughout 2017, with significant expansion in October, and with all Local Authorities expected to be live by the end of 2018.