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Joining forces with the health sector to tackle cold homes

At Shelter Scotland, all our advice and support services, and campaigning and policy activity is centered around our mission statement: Until there’s a home for everyone. This is not just about bricks and mortar – but making sure housing is safe, secure and affordable. This is where our work around fuel poverty comes in.

At the last count, 845,000 households were living in fuel poverty in Scotland – those defined as needing to spend more than 10% of their household income on energy usage to keep their home warm and cosy. We know that not being able to afford their fuel bills can have a huge impact on the health of the household – it’s linked to breathing or cardiovascular problems, issues relating to mould and dampness, and difficult decisions between heating or eating. In fact, children living in cold homes are twice as likely to have respiratory problems, and at least 1 in 10 excess deaths each winter can be attributed to cold housing – in 2014/15, this accounted for at least 400 people.

As a result, Shelter Scotland has this week launched a new ‘Healthy Homes’ project, looking to highlight links between health, fuel poverty and housing.  The project aims to join forces between health, housing and energy advice sectors, supporting frontline health and social care workers to spot patients or clients who might be struggling to heat their homes or pay their energy bills, and know where to refer them on for help.  A free elearning course has been developed for these frontline workers, as well as a specialised section of our website for online advice for the public.

The project aims to link more people to the huge amount of help available for anyone struggling to afford their energy bills – one off grants, emergency credit, support in improving energy efficiency in the home, and home visits to help identify where your money could – quite literally, in the case of hot water – be going down the drain. More information on support available is listed below.

The project is also exploring other solutions to use the reach of the health sector to make every contact count in reducing fuel poverty and improving health outcomes.  For more information on the project, to share examples of existing good partnerships, or if you work in health and social care and would benefit from our eLearning course, please get in touch with Lisa Glass, Partnership Officer for Health (email: lisa_glass@shelter.org.uk, tel: 0344 515 2469).

  • For advice if you are struggling to pay your fuel bills, call our national helpline on 0808 800 4444, visit our get advice site at shelterscotland.org/healthyhomes
  • Home Energy Scotland, a Scottish Government programme managed by Energy Saving Trust, offers free, independent advice over the phone on saving energy in the home, eligibility for any financial support or benefits. They can also arrange home visits for some individuals either themselves or by referring on to local partner organisations. Call them on 0808 808 2282 for free, impartial advice on having a warmer home.