A £3 million support fund has been launched to help Scots struggling with their energy bills amid a growing cost-of-living crisis.
The Scottish Government scheme, which is administered by national advice service Advice Direct Scotland (ADS), is designed to prevent households from falling into fuel poverty and help those “rationing” their energy use.
Local authorities and housing associations, as well as charities and organisations which provide energy or debt advice, are being urged to register online and seek funding for people they support.
Individuals cannot apply directly, but they should contact ADS for free on 0808 800 9060 or visit www.advice.scot, so trained advisers can assess their eligibility and refer them if appropriate.
Even if they are not eligible, ADS can offer free advice on energy and debt issues.
Targeted funding from the HHSF will reflect individual 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.
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.”
Andrew Bartlett, chief executive, Advice Direct Scotland.
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 they can afford to spend money on other goods or services.
This could be as a result of homeworking or homeschooling due to the pandemic.
ADS chief executive Andrew Bartlett 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.”
He added: “With recent energy prices rises and more on the horizon, we know many Scots are facing financial difficulties.
“Last year we discovered 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.”
Mr Bartlett was referring to a study which found nearly one-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.