Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Saturday, 18 October 2008 17:58 UK

More families to get free heating

The extended heating scheme will be brought in next spring

The scheme to provide pensioners with free central heating systems is to be extended to some families on benefits.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged an extra 10m to fund the project in an announcement at the SNP party conference.

It will help families on income support with children under five, or a disabled child under 16, from next spring.

The Scottish Government will bring forward regulations to cover the extension of the programme from April.

'Rising bills'

Ms Sturgeon said: "In the last few months, fuel bills have soared by 40%.

"There are now more households than ever before living in fuel poverty."

Conference delegates were told that more than 14,000 homes had free central heating systems installed last year.

However, she said, they needed to do even more.

She said: "Pensioners are not the only group in Scotland who are fuel poor.

"So I can also announce to you today that I will be laying regulations in parliament to extend eligibility for the fuel poverty programme to two new groups.

"From April next year, in addition to pensioner households, families on income support with children under five or with disabled children under 16, will for the first time ever, be eligible for the fuel poverty programme.

"More support to more people and better targeted on those who need it most. That's our commitment to tackling fuel poverty."

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