Date lodged: 31 August 2016
To ask the Scottish Government how it is working with the UK Government, regulators, consumer organisations, charities and other stakeholders to reduce the impact of the poverty premium on low income consumers.
Answered by: Angela Constance 21 September 2016
The poverty premium was raised as an issue of particular concern by many people during our Fairer Scotland discussions last year. We will shortly be publishing our Fairer Scotland Action Plan which will respond to this and other key issues that were raised during that discussion.
Under the Scotland Act 2016, the Scottish Government has taken on responsibility for consumer advocacy and advice. It is working with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure that consumer advocacy and advice improves outcomes for consumers in Scotland, including those where the poverty premium applies, such as energy, where vulnerable consumers are supported by the Extra Help Unit. The Scottish Government will also be undertaking a survey to establish the extent of switching and the barriers that consumers face, and use the results to identify the characteristics of different types of switchers, such as those on low incomes, with the aim of developing targeted policy interventions.
We are determined to tackle fuel poverty. An independently chaired Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group is currently considering a range of issues such as how we ensure those who most need help get it. In the meantime, of our £113 million fuel poverty budget allocation for 2016-17, around 70% is targeted via grants at the poorest households in Scotland to make their homes warmer and cheaper to heat. The remaining 30% is allocated to advice and support for all consumers and loans to help those able to pay to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. We are satisfied that the majority of our HEEPS programme is aimed at those who are subject to the poverty premium.