Highland residents struggle with fuel poverty

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Highland fuel poverty map courtesy of Changeworks.
Highland fuel poverty map courtesy of Changeworks.

RECENT figures have revealed that more than half of all households in remote rural areas are living in fuel poverty.

Residents struggling to pay their fuel bills are being urged by NHS Highland’s director of public health to seek advice from a government energy efficiency scheme to stay warm this winter.

The call comes after the figures showed that the 55 per cent of households are spending more than 10 per cent of their disposable income on heating.

And for some of the most vulnerable, such as pensioners, the figure is even higher – estimated at close to three-quarters of all households (72 percent) in the Highland Council area.

Professor Hugo van Woerden, the board’s director of public health, said: ‘The most vulnerable people include those with cardiovascular conditions, respiratory conditions and mental health conditions. These negative effects are found across all age groups from infants to older people.

‘The financial stress associated with fuel poverty can also mean people having to choose between eating a healthy diet or heating their homes to a reasonable level.’

MP Ian Blackford has signed up to the Home Energy Scotland portal better to advise and assist constituents about ways to save money on energy bills.

The initiative, which is a free service provided by the Energy Saving Trust and funded by the Scottish Government, gives advice on keeping warm and helping the environment.

This is set to benefit people who find their homes hard to heat, worry about their fuel bills or who would like advice and support to make their home warmer and cut their fuel bills.

Constituents can contact Home Energy Scotland free on 0808 808 2282, or be referred by Mr Blackford and his staff through the new Home Energy Scotland referral portal.

The effects of fuel poverty were highlighted with the release of a report on excess winter deaths and the publication of an action plan to address fuel poverty compiled by the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force recently.