The health implications of fuel poverty in Scotland revealed in new report

Adam Lang, head of communications and policy at Shelter Scotland.
Adam Lang, head of communications and policy at Shelter Scotland.

The vital and sometimes life-saving work carried out by dozens of organisations across Scotland that tackle health issues caused by fuel poverty has been mapped in a new report.

‘Health-Related Fuel Poverty Schemes in Scotland’ has been co-authored by Shelter Scotland and Energy Action Scotland.

The authors say they hope the learnings from the report – such as the difficulties in accessing what can be short-term, ad hoc funding and dealing with data-protection issues – will lead to a more cohesive, national approach for tackling fuel poverty-related health issues.

The report paints a picture of dozens of schemes working to alleviate the effects of fuel poverty-related health issues – from East Sutherland to Orkney and from Glasgow to Fife.

The benefits of health-related fuel poverty schemes are many – including better health for the householder which links to fewer GP visits, fewer hospital admissions, fewer days spent in hospital as well as financial savings. They can also mean fewer days lost at school or work due to absence through ill health. These benefits push the case for the schemes to be better coordinated on a national level and for funding to be more consistent and less ad-hoc in nature.

Adam Lang, head of communications and policy at Shelter Scotland, said: “The effects of fuel poverty and living in a cold and damp home are well documented, in particular they cause cardiovascular, respiratory and mental health problems. Children in cold homes are also twice as likely to suffer respiratory problems.

“Therefore, we think it’s vital that organisations working to help mitigate the profound and sometimes crippling effects of fuel poverty on people’s health are given more consistent support and that a more strategic view is taken at a national level.

“The impact of fewer visits to GPs, fewer hospital admissions and less time spent in hospital as well as financial savings is not only of great benefit to the people helped but also takes some of the pressure off our stretched health services.”

Norman Kerr, director of Energy Action Scotland, added: “This year the Scottish Government is reviewing its fuel poverty strategy and consulting on its plans for new action through ‘Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme’. Their strategy and plans must put health and fuel poverty links at the heart of efforts.”