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Fuel poverty rates for pensioners in Highlands 'shocking'

By Rachel Smart

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Fuel poverty rates have doubled among pensioners in Scotland over the last two years according to new research from Age Scotland.
Fuel poverty rates have doubled among pensioners in Scotland over the last two years according to new research from Age Scotland.

Fuel poverty rates have doubled among pensioners in Scotland over the last two years according to new research from Age Scotland.

The charity’s largest national housing survey of older people identified that 39 per cent of over 65s are living in fuel poverty in 2023, compared to the last available set of Scottish Government figures for 2021 (19 per cent).

However, of the figures for the Highlands are even more staggering with 58 per cent of respondent living in fuel poverty.

The majority of respondents felt that their current home will be unsuitable for them in the future. 64 per cent in the Highlands said they either do not believe or are unsure that their home will meet their needs in the next ten years.

Additionally 19 per cent of those in the Highlands of older households thought their current home was either not very suitable or not at all suitable for their needs.

Household costs, including energy bills, lack of accessibility within the home, distance from friends and family and a decline in health were all given as reasons why older people feel like they might need to move.

Age Scotland and ScotInform surveyed more than 1,100 over 50s from every local authority in Scotland. The study was funded by the Scottish Government.

Katherine Crawford, interim chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “These results lay bare the shocking impact rising energy prices and the cost of living crisis are having on older people. We cannot allow a situation where older people are putting their health at risk by failing to heat their homes adequately.

“The number of older people who told us they believed they did not live in homes that would be suitable for their needs in ten years time is another issue that must be addressed at national and local government level.

"It is vital that age-friendly, accessible housing is delivered for those in need, taking into account the type of housing older people want and ensuring that they are part of local communities with easy access to medical services, shops and places to meet with friends.”

Age Scotland has provided six key recommendations for government and local authorities based on the survey’s findings:

  • Create a national one-stop-shop for energy efficiency advice, including grants, loans and other support available to make it easier for people living in fuel poverty to know where to turn for help and support.
  • Prioritise and increase the delivery of age-friendly accessible homes across the country, to address the growing problem for older people of living in unsuitable or inaccessible housing.
  • Deliver smarter targeted and proactive energy efficiency support for low-income homes by using Social Security Scotland data linked to the Winter Heating Payment.
  • Improve and promote to older households the availability of home adaptation services whether it is through a council’s Scheme of Assistance or a local Care and Repair.
  • Increased understanding of why there are a growing number of older people living in the private rented sector, and that the low awareness of their rental rights are boosted to ensure they have access to safe and accessible homes.
  • Local authorities must commit to providing better, meaningful engagement with older residents, to understand their housing needs and challenges when developing future local housing strategies and future housing developments.

The Scottish Government's Housing Minister, Paul McLennan, said: "I welcome the Age Scotland National Housing Survey. The Scottish Government recognises the issues raised and is working to improve them. Our priority is to do everything we can to help those worst affected by high energy bills which is why we tripled the Fuel Insecurity Fund from £10 million to £30 million.

“Older people should have choice, dignity and freedom to access suitable homes, built or adapted so they can participate as full and equal citizens. We are taking steps to ensure older people can find housing that meets their needs by increasing the supply of accessible and adapted homes and improving choice.

“We plan to introduce a new Scottish Accessible Homes Standard and launched a consultation on June 29, which will seek views from stakeholders including older people on how we can future proof new homes by building in accessibility and adaptability from the start. This will ensure older people have an increased range of housing options and reduce the need to make costly changes to homes as their needs change.

“We are also taking forward a review of the current housing adaptations system, due to conclude this year.”

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