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A £3million scheme has been launched to help families struggling with their energy bills amid a growing cost-of-living crisis.
The Scottish Government scheme, which is administered by Advice Direct Scotland, is designed to prevent households falling into fuel poverty and help those ‘rationing’ their energy use.
The Home Heating Support Fund is open until March 31 and applications can be made on behalf of individuals by local authorities and housing associations, as well as charities and organisations on behalf of people through www.homeheatingadvice.scot.
These ‘referral partners’ are being encouraged to register online so that they can seek funding for people they support.
Individuals cannot apply directly, but they should contact Advice Direct Scotland for free on 0808 800 9060 or visit www.advice.scot, and trained advisers can assess their eligibility and refer them if appropriate. Even if they are not eligible, Advice Direct Scotland can offer free advice on energy and debt issues.
Last year, a poll found that nearly a third of Scots had rationed their energy use so they could afford to spend money on other goods and services. With recent price rises and a further steep increase in bills expected in spring, there are growing concerns about the impact on households.
Targeted funding from the Home Heating Support Fund will reflect each individual’s circumstances, with extra support available for households where one person is over 75, they rely on electric heating, or live in a remote or island community.
Payments start at £100, rising to £500 to clear outstanding debt, with the money paid directly to suppliers on behalf of the household.
Eligibility is based on households which are ‘self-rationing’ their energy, meaning those who are deliberately limiting their energy use so that they can afford to spend money on other goods or services.
This could be as a result of home-working or home-schooling due to the pandemic.
Any households which are ‘off-supply’ are not eligible for the fund and should seek immediate support from their energy supplier or organisations which can refer them to the Fuel Bank Foundation.
Andrew Bartlett, chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland, said: ‘As the country recovers from the Covid pandemic and its economic impact, this fund will prove absolutely crucial in ensuring that households who have been hit the hardest can continue to heat their homes and feed their families.
‘With recent energy prices rises and more on the horizon, we know that many Scots are facing financial difficulties at the moment.
‘Last year, we discovered that families were rationing energy such as only heating one room, and this fund is designed to ensure that people do not have to make that choice.
‘Our unique experience and infrastructure at Advice Direct Scotland guarantees our capability to ensure that financial support reaches consumers facing financial hardship, while our nationwide network allows us to deliver this vital service and ensure that all households in Scotland suffering from fuel poverty can receive the help they need.’