Understanding the characteristics of low income households at risk from cold homes (2015-16)

Report for the Welsh Government

Project duration: December 2015 to December 2016

In 2015 the Welsh Government commissioned CSE to conduct research to help them better understand which low income households are the most vulnerable from the detrimental effects of living in cold homes, and which are in the greatest need of a home energy efficiency intervention. A key aim of the research was to inform decision making around the development of a future energy efficiency scheme in Wales.

The research looked at:

  • Which low income people would gain a significant reduction in vulnerability through home energy efficient improvements.
  • The options for targeting these people and groups effectively.
  • Which groups of people might benefit from a scheme under different budget scenarios.

In 2010 the Welsh government published its Fuel Poverty Strategy. This set out plans for how to meet the legal obligation on the government to do everything reasonably practicable to eliminate fuel poverty by 2018.  As part of this strategy the government set up two schemes under the Warm Homes Programme to address fuel poverty: Nest, a scheme offering free energy efficiency improvements to individual residents, and Arbed, which offers funding to local authorities to carry out these improvements in their areas.

Nest has had significant success in achieving its stated objectives; however there were a number of areas of potential improvement, including more effective targeting of those most at risk from living in cold homes. The research conducted by CSE aimed to address this area head-on, and provided recommendations of how to prioritise and approach the most vulnerable households.

The first phase of the research investigated how best to characterise the groups of people who suffer from living in cold homes. It also included an analysis of the best routes for publicising energy efficiency improvement schemes to these groups. It concluded that groups that should be prioritised for support through such schemes were those on a low income, occupying their own home or living in privately rented accommodation, in an energy inefficient home and with an additional “marker” of vulnerability such as:

  • Elderly people over the age of 65.
  • Households with dependent children (particularly under the age of five).
  • People with a long term health condition or disability.
  • People with respiratory conditions or cardiovascular diseases.
  • People with mental health conditions.

It recommended that eligibility for any future energy efficiency scheme should expand beyond using existing and established systems such as evidencing using receipt of means-tested benefits, and consider a referral system involving third party agencies and organisations already working with vulnerable people. The second phase of the research used the National Household Model to test out the potential reach and impact of a new energy efficiency scheme using a number of different annual budgets.

Toby Bridgeman, CSE's project manager, has said: "It's fantastic that the Welsh government are committed to dealing effectively with fuel poverty and the problem of cold homes. This research should help them to understanding who will benefit most from energy efficiency schemes, and where and how to target their efforts. We're really pleased that they'll be using it in their future strategy planning."

You can read the full report here.

CC image courtesy of johnthescone via Flickr.

For further information contact:

Dr Toby Bridgeman | 0117 934 1435

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