Time running out to seek CAB help with fuel bills

THERE is just a week remaining for people in the Roxburghshire and Berwickshire areas to get support through a pilot scheme being run to tackle fuel poverty.

The local Citizens’ Advice Bureau is one of nine in Scotland running the Energy Best Deal+ programme which aims to support people in, or at risk of, fuel poverty.

Since the scheme was introduced to the participating CABs in July, more than 200 clients have been helped to access savings, discounts and energy assistance, with the majority receiving help of over £100.

Patricia Buckley, manager of Roxburgh and Berwickshire CAB, told TheSouthern that staff and volunteers at the Hawick and Duns offices had seen more than 50 people as part of the scheme, achieving a £15,000 gain for them in just five weeks.

“The project has been a terrific success so far and is making a real practical difference to the lives of many vulnerable families. After all, if you are struggling to pay your fuel bills, a saving of £100 is really good news.

“We want more people to come forward and access the scheme before the pilot finishes on September 14,” she added.

Through the pilot scheme, 80 per cent of clients have discovered that they are entitled to claim the Warm Home Discount, a £130 saving on their energy bill. Many have also been referred to their energy supplier or the Energy Savings Trust for free or discounted cavity wall, loft and solid-wall insulation.

In the Borders fuel poverty, defined as being when a household spends 10 per cent of its income on domestic fuel bills, is high compared to other Scottish regions, with 35 per cent of Borders households suffering from fuel poverty.

However, 14 per cent of local households are in “extreme” fuel poverty, according to the latest figures for 2008-10, spending more than 20 per cent of their income on bills. Pensioners, those with a disability and people with long-term ill health can be added to the priority service register, which enables them to access many free services from energy suppliers, such as special controllers and adapters to make gas and electrical outlets easier to use and free gas safety checks.

Figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change also reveal that in the Borders the number of properties with cavity wall and/or loft insulation is significantly below the British average, and its neighbouring regions on both sides of the border.

The Scottish Government’s recent Fuel Poverty Evidence Review also revealed that it anticipates a seven per cent rise in fuel poverty when the 2011 figures are published, and warns that in 2012 the average Scottish household will be in fuel poverty.

Roxburgh and Berwickshire CAB can be contacted on 01450 374266.