More than two-thirds of Scots who are eligible for a UK Government payment to combat fuel poverty are not receiving it, new research has suggested.
A study by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) shows just 9.3% of all households in Scotland have applied for the warmer home discount (WHD).
The benefit, which is not a payment made to the household but a discount applied to a winter energy bill, knocked £140 off the bills of people across the UK.
However, CAS has said an estimated 29% to 32% of Scottish households are eligible.
In a report published on Friday, CAS urged providers to better assist vulnerable customers in applying for the scheme.
Kate Morrison, the fair markets spokesman at CAS, said: “The warm home discount, in principle, is a very good scheme.
“Where the money actually gets to the people who need it, our research finds that it is greatly appreciated and helps those families stay warm without putting them in financial difficulty.
“The problem our report identifies – and this is backed up by the experience of advisers across Scotland – is that too many of the households who need this kind of help are not receiving the WHD. We believe that suppliers could do more in the way of application assistance for households in vulnerable situations.
“We want to be clear that we think it is absolutely critical that the WHD fund is maintained, but there need to be more efforts made to ensure that people who need this support actually get it.
“Every household in Scotland pays towards this fund through their bills, including those in fuel poverty, so a one-third success rate is clearly not acceptable, and nor is that fact that families across Scotland are suffering the cold or going into debt to keep the heating on when they don’t need to.”
The report, according to Ms Morrison, has been circulated to the UK Government and to energy suppliers, whom she hopes will “redouble their efforts to make sure all consumers know that this assistance is available”.
She added: “We also hope that by publishing our research today, we will help make consumers aware of the WHD and claim it. Nearly one third of all Scottish households could claim WHD, so it is worth seeking out.”
A BEIS spokesman said: “The Warm Home Discount helps two million people across the UK, and we encourage anyone who thinks they might be eligible to speak to their energy suppliers to make sure they receive this extra support with their bills.”