Understanding the characteristics of low income households at risk from cold homes
In 2015 the Welsh Government commissioned CSE to conduct research to help them better understand which low income households were the most vulnerable to the detrimental effects of living in cold homes, and which were in the greatest need of a home energy efficiency intervention. The research aimed 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.
Developing on the 2010 Fuel Poverty Strategy
In 2010 the Welsh government published its Fuel Poverty Strategy. This set out plans for how to meet the legal obligation of the government to do everything reasonably practicable to eliminate fuel poverty by 2018. As part of this strategy, the government set up two schemes to address fuel poverty: Nest, a scheme offering free energy efficiency improvements to individual residents, and Arbed, which offered funding to local authorities to carry out these improvements in their areas.
Nest had had significant success in achieving its stated objectives. However, there were multiple areas of potential improvement, including more effective targeting of those most at risk from living in cold homes. CSE’s research aimed to address this area head-on and provided recommendations on how to prioritise and approach the most vulnerable households.
Our research and recommendations
The first phase of the research investigated how best to characterise the groups of people living in cold homes. It also included an analysis of the best routes for publicising energy efficiency improvement schemes to these groups. The research concluded that groups that should be prioritised for support 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. Instead, a referral system involving third-party agencies and organisations already working with vulnerable people should be considered. 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 several different annual budgets.