Fuel poverty in Scotland
Fuel poverty in Scotland

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Fuel poverty in Scotland

3.2 Clips 4 to 5

Clip 4

In this clip, we hear about the problems faced by those in the private rented sector, and find out about EAGA.

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Transcript: Clip 4

Helen Robinson
Florence Foster is a Manchester woman, who has lived in Dundee for many years. She's now in sheltered accommodation, but previously was renting from a private landlord. Together with her friend Doreen, she recalls what the place was like.
Florence Foster
When you first went in, it was a long hallway. And the bedroom was on the right, when you went in. That was just a small bedroom. There was a built-in wardrobe, which was absolutely green with mould. I put my clothes in it not knowing. I had to throw them out. They were all stinking and green with mould. That's when I found out how damp it was.
Doreen
The main heating was in the living-room, which was an electric fire, a two bar electric fire.
Florence Foster
Three bar.
Doreen
Three bar. I couldn't have put three bars.
Florence Foster
No you couldn't. She wouldn't run three bars. But I mean, I know, when I was up … you felt the coldness through your feet. You did.
Florence Foster
And I think, if you'd have had three fires in there, you still wouldn't have got that bedroom dry. I was getting bad colds and that, you know. I was in my bed for a fortnight at a time, wasn't I? And that last time I wouldn't have cared, but I got a needle every year for the flu. And I took secondary flu, they call it … just about killed me.
I went down to the landlord and asked them to do something. And they told me to open the windows. And I said, “You are joking. It's freezing”. And I said, “Plus I'm on the ground floor. I'd be robbed”. I was in a bad place up there. I says, “Could I get those whirly things, you know, the whirly things in the window?” “Oh no,” she says, “We couldn't do that”. This was the receptionist. I couldn't get past her. Plus, my kitchen window … they put a new window in when they renovated the place. They'd have been as well leaving it out. It was freezing. The draft that was coming through was nobody's business.
Helen Robinson
Angela Yih, at Age Concern Scotland, has also come across situations like this.
Angela Yih
It's quite difficult to improve conditions in the private rented sector, because it's not regulated. There should be some kind of regulation, where houses that become unfit to live in … landlords shouldn't be allowed to let them out. We also believe landlords should often, you know … should be encouraged to join in ways of improving houses and be helped.
Sometimes they're … when you work with landlords and offer them grants, what the result is an improvement in people's quality of life, and an improvement in the housing stock. So we're not keen on the local authority attitude we often come across, that we shouldn't be giving any financial help to landlords. If they're offering a service, and going to offer a service that's needed, then they're entitled to help as well.
Older people, in general, have lower or static incomes than other groups in the population. And we have identified, over the years, that many older people live in the poorest housing conditions that there are in Scotland, particularly older homeowners. The older you become as an older homeowner, the more likely your house is to be needing quite significant repairs. And also in the private rented sector, which has, proportionally anyway, the worst housing conditions in the country. The older you become as an older homeowner, the more likely your house is to be needing quite significant repairs.
Helen Robinson
Under the government's Home Energy Efficiency Scheme, called „Warm Deal‟ in Scotland, grants of up to five hundred pounds are available to people who qualify. And, as a consequence of the Home Energy Conservation Act, or HECA, all local authorities are required to have an energy efficiency strategy for their housing stock. But, so far, councils have not been legally required to fulfil these strategies.
Elizabeth Belk
Good afternoon, I like to pay my account.
Woman
One week.
Elizabeth Belk
Yes please.
Woman
Just checking.
Helen Robinson
At Hamilton, in the Clyde Valley, pensioner Elizabeth Belk is a homeowner. She's taking part in a trial scheme run by Scottish Power and EAGA, the organisation that has UK government funding to spend on energy efficiency projects. Under the Warm Deal, she's been able to get insulation work done at her home.
Elizabeth Belk
After it was done … I mean, it was funny … you could get into the rooms. And different times again you'd swear blind that there was a heater on, but it was the heat coming from the loft down. You felt, some days, it depends I think which way the wind's blowing, right you know. But, different days, you had actually to switch your heating off because it was too warm. I put it down to the lowest, but the heat with the doors being shut … the heat off the storage heater just hits you. You go in the kitchenette and it's only a wee storage heater, but it's … with the kitchenette being so wee, it's … you feel the heat everywhere you're going.
My grandson will say, if he'd been out late and he comes in and the central heating has clicked on, he'll say, “Nana, do you mean to make this house like a steamy?” But it's not. It's just the heat. The house is holding the heat, and that's just how it is.
Colin Gibson
Hello Mrs Belk how are you doing.
Mrs Belk
Fine, thank you.
Colin Gibson
Here for my monthly visit again. how's that?
Helen Robinson
Scottish Power, in the shape of Colin Gibson, worked out a weekly payment regime for Mrs Belk. She now pays fifteen pounds a week through summer and winter and, during the trial period, to check that she doesn't go over this limit, he comes to read the meter each month.
Colin Gibson
I'll just go and read the meter now, if you don't mind and—
Mrs Belk
Carry on.
Helen Robinson
As part of the scheme, she also received a benefits health check from EAGA. When her local DSS told her that she wasn't entitled to any more benefits, Mrs Belk turned to EAGA for advice.
Mrs Belk
Right, I says, “That's fine, I'll just notify EAGA. You say I'm not entitled to it”. So I phoned them up on a free phone number, and I said to them who I was and said yes how could they help me? And I said to them, “Remember you told me that I was entitled to … yes”. I says, “Well the DSS say I'm not entitled to it”. “Just give me a minute to check it again.“ She read over everything that I'd told her … how much I had, how much my husband had, my mobility …and she says, “I'll get this checked out by my boss. I'll phone you back,” she says.”We'll not hold up the lines, I'll phone you back.”
She phoned me back in an hour and a half, and she says, “Mrs Belk, my boss still says, you're entitled to this money. I'll tell you what ,” she says, “I'll put it in the post tonight. I'll work it all out for them … exactly what you're entitled to”.
EAGA had worked it out that I was entitled to income support with my pension to pay my mortgage, which I was not getting. And, if it hadn't been for them, I would never have received this extra money because I would never have known about it. And my pension went up. The DSS had to put it up from thirty nine pounds to fifty one pound.
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Clip 5

This clip focuses on the issue of benefits and the need for funding to tackle the problems of fuel inefficiency.

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Transcript: Clip 5

Helen Robinson
Wrongly calculated benefits, or no benefits at all, is a constant problem, which Angela Yih is well aware of.
Angela Yih
Every year, we have a ‘Your Rights Week’ in Age Concern … the movement in general - Wales Ireland England and Scotland … to encourage older people to take up the benefits they're entitled to. We're not really aware if it has a great success rate. We tend to be preaching to the converted. The people who don't claim benefits either don't understand the benefit system, don't respond to an advert, or don't want to claim the benefits.
The older the age group, the more reluctant people seem to be, particularly people over seventy five, come from an era where there is still a stigma attached to any kind of benefit. And also, people have low expectations and living in conditions that are so below what you and I would expect, but they have been so used to that, they actually believe they have enough, because they don't know what it's like to have any more.
Helen Robinson
When Miss Foster moved out of her old cold house to sheltered accommodation, she found out how things could be.
Florence Foster
I think it's great, yeah. Although, mind you, the first week I come in, I couldn't stick the heat. I was sweating.
Doreen
You're acclimatised to it now, so you're fine.
Florence Foster
I've got used to it.
Doreen
And that's the whole house heated. Miss Foster Yeah.
Helen Robinson
But, if the seven hundred and thirty eight thousand households, presently classed as fuel poor, are to end up feeling as happy as Miss Foster, there remains a lot more work to be done. Ian Treanor recognises that money is needed from somewhere, if the old Dundee tenements are to be made more habitable.
Ian Treanor
There's really no way that we could insulate these properties with the current funding that's available through the grant system. We could insulate the lofts. But, for someone who doesn't have a loft, basically all we could do is provide some draft proofing, which really doesn't help to keep the heat within the fabric of the building.
The grant really has to be enlarged so that we could basically go in and either internally lag the property to keep the heat in, or clad them from the exterior to make them a lot warmer than what they physically are …because they are difficult to heat. Really, we look to government really to plough more money in to try and overcome the problems that we do face in Dundee.
Angela Yiu
The Scottish Executive have gone some way to recognise the need to address fuel poverty and energy inefficiency in the housing stock. But a lot of the measures are fairly piecemeal, and difficult to become aware of … difficult to utilise, difficult to target to the people who need it most. What we'd be looking for would be more of a strategy that's linked and coordinated from one particular reference point. For instance, the Home Energy Conservation Act makes local authorities responsible for measuring energy efficiency in their stock.
Now, if they had the proper resources and staffing, the HECA unit, as it's called, could take the lead in coordinating a policy at local area level. And we might get somewhere then, because we would have targets that are measurable, and we'd know if we'd achieved much. At the moment, all we know is that the Warm Deal grant has met its targets in terms of money being spent, but it hasn't actually met its targets, as far as we know, in terms of the types of household they most wanted to reach. There are certain things that one can't afford, if one's on a low salary. But, to be able to heat your home should not have anything to do with how much you earn. You need a decent house, a well insulated house, an efficient heating system, and you don't really have to pay a lot of money to keep warm.
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