PhD Dissertation: Identification of Vulnerable Homes from the Fuel Poverty Concept. Indicator and Assessment Model

Grant Holder: Raúl Castaño De la Rosa, University of Seville, Higher Technical School of Architecture.  Thesis advisor: Professor Madelyn Marrero.
Main Contact : Raúl Castaño De la Rosa
Email: raucasde@alum.us.es

Summary

This research, based on the analysis of different existing indicators of fuel poverty and its relationship to the residential sector, has been developed within the Spanish context taking into consideration the current situation of this issue in Spain. The novelty of this research is that the Index of Vulnerable Homes (IVH) defined goes beyond the use of single self-reported subjective indicators of thermal comfort, and instead uses the comfort adaptive models, which present a broader assessment of thermal comfort. Overall, the application of the IVH to the British context will bring a new perspective in the assessment and identification of vulnerable homes, and provide a starting point for new lines of research aimed at achieving optimal and efficient performances for households in great need.

Impact of fuel poverty measures: new research on the modelling of energy efficiency improvements on health

Improving household energy efficiency levels (through draft proofing, insulation, double glazing and improved heating) can reduce the impact of cold homes on health. This is important because we know that living in poorly heated and insulated homes increases the risk of a range of conditions including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Few studies have assessed the potential long-term impact of historic efficiency improvements on hospital admissions for cardiovascular and respiratory symptoms. Research by the University of Exeter Medical School (in collaboration with their partners), funded by Eaga Charitable Trust, used household energy efficiency and hospital admissions data across the UK to explore this further.

Their report provides a description of some very interesting, thought-provoking and, and in some respects, unexpected findings. Importantly, the authors highlight a number of limitations associated with this study and the complexity in modelling how improvements such as insulation, glazing and heating influences residents’ health.

An Assessment Tool for Low Income/High Costs (LIHC) Fuel Poverty – Final Stage 3

A new definition of fuel poverty, the low income/high costs (LIHC) fuel poverty indicator, was introduced for England by the Government following the 2012 Hills Review. Unlike the previous definition, the new indicator is a relative measure, with annually changing thresholds which make it difficult to identify and monitor the problem consistently at the local level.

Eaga Charitable Trust has recently published a report by Richard Moore and the Energy Audit Company which is the third stage of a project, jointly funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Citizens Advice, National Energy Action and Eaga Charitable Trust, to develop a practical and flexible assessment tool to target low income/high costs (LIHC) fuel poverty.  The report updates the 2015 Stage 2 report and is in two parts.  The first part details the further development and extension of the UNO based software version of the tool and the production of a new web based version (freely available on the NEA website – link below).  The second part describes the practical problems with the official LIHC indicator and shows how the assessment tool can be used to more accurately and comprehensively target those households most in need.

Links to: Stage 3 full report, research summaryguidance documents & fuel poverty assessment tool.

Stage 2 reports can be accessed here.

Homes fit for study: student experiences of energy in the private rented sector

Students’ experiences of the private rented sector are commonly associated with poorly heated, low quality, dense, urban accommodation.  This is accompanied by a widespread cultural expectation that it is acceptable for students to live in housing with these characteristics.  At the same time, there has been little research conducted with the student population within the field of fuel poverty research. This recently published research explored the experiences of students living in the private rented sector in terms of their use and management of energy and the extent to which these lead to living in cold homes.  Of those students surveyed:

  • 49% reported feeling uncomfortably cold in their rented home;
  • 42% struggled to pay their energy bills;
  • 38% had damp or mould in their property.

The research revealed a range of factors that contributed to these experiences, along with an array of impacts and coping strategies.

You can access the full research report and research summary here and read an NUS blog on the research here.

Grant Award to The University of Sheffield

The Trustees of Eaga Charitable Trust are very pleased to announce a new grant award which they have made to the University of Sheffield for a research project entitled ‘Being Warm – Being Happy: Understanding Disability Fuel Poverty and Energy Vulnerability for Adults with a Learning Disability (AWLD)’. This mixed methods study aims to understand and characterise fuel poverty and energy vulnerability from the perspective of adults with learning disabilities. 

Professor Angela Tod, Professor of Older People and Care, School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Sheffield, said: 

“The Being Warm Being Happy project team are delighted to have been awarded this grant from Eaga Charitable Trust.  The voice and experience of  adults with a learning disability are under-represented in fuel poverty research and this funding provides a valuable opportunity to start to address that evidence gap.  We look forward to conducting the study and sharing our findings.”

Further information on the project can be found here.

Low Carbon Heat and Rural Fuel Poverty – Lessons from across Europe

This recently published study examines the role of low carbon heat and the potential for it to address fuel poverty, particularly in rural locations. Best practice examples have been sourced from EU member states, which are leading in both the deployment of low carbon heat and with low reported fuel poverty levels. A review of barriers to the UK has been compiled and learning experiences drawn, to inform next steps in the low carbon heat agenda.

You can access the full research report and research summary here.

Being Warm – Being Happy: Understanding Disability Fuel Poverty and Energy Vulnerability for Adults with a Learning Disability (AWLD)

Start Date: October 2017
Completion Date: October 2018
Grant Holder: University of Sheffield
Main Contact: Professor Angela Tod, Professor of Older People & Care, School of Nursing & Midwifery
Email: a.tod@sheffield.ac.uk

Summary

There is very little evidence of the nature and extent of fuel poverty in adults with a learning disability (AWLD). This mixed-method study seeks to address that gap.

Aim

To understand and characterize fuel poverty and energy vulnerability from the perspective of AWLD.

Objectives

  1. To conduct interviews to understand the experience and risks of fuel poverty from the perspective of AWLD.
  2. To compare the rates of FP in households in which AWLD reside relative to households in which adults with other forms of disability reside and the general adult population.
  3. To identify the implications for policy and practice through consultation and co-production.

Postgraduate bursaries available from Eaga Charitable Trust

The Trustees of Eaga Charitable Trust encourage postgraduate  students to write dissertations relating to fuel poverty issues. This is an area that provides research opportunities for new students that stretch as far as climate change, environmental justice, and visionary solutions to housing challenges and there is a huge knowledge bank of world expertise available in the way of supervisors.

Each year Eaga Charitable Trust awards a small number of bursaries of up to £2,000 each. Bursaries are awarded to: current Masters students; students who have a confirmed place on a Masters course starting in the next academic year; and to PhD students in their second or third years of study. In all cases, applicants must be writing, or planning to write, a dissertation on a topic linked to fuel poverty within the UK or other EU countries. The subject of research needs to demonstrate direct relevance and application to UK fuel poverty policy.

This is an open call for applications with no deadline. Bursary awards will be made throughout the year until the Trust’s budget for bursaries is fully spent.

Further information on the bursary awards and the application process can be found hereIf you have any queries, please contact Naomi Brown – email eagact@aol.com

 

 

The Health of the Nation: new research on local fuel poverty schemes

Some aspects of fuel poverty are inherently local and many local authorities, and others, have recognised this. Local support services for those in fuel poverty have been part of the solution for some time, but there was limited evidence about how they operate, who they reach and how cost effective they are.

SE2 Ltd and Lewisham Council wanted to investigate this topic further and – funded by Eaga Charitable Trust – have developed a detailed review of local, health-related fuel poverty schemes. Their research report – The Health of the Nation – examines the objectives behind such schemes, how they are targeted, the services they offer, their costs and how success is monitored. It provides a rich seam of evidence for anyone scoping, developing or managing a local fuel poverty scheme.

You can read the full research report, and download accompanying guidance documents for policymakers and practitioners here

New research on the lived reality of energy inefficiency in the private rented sector

Housing tenants in the private rented sector are choosing to live in cold homes out of fear of high heating bills and losing their tenancy, according to new research funded by Eaga Charitable Trust. 

The research, carried out by Sheffield Hallam University, was developed to provide a better understanding of the lived reality of energy inefficiency in private rented sector housing. The private rented sector is the fastest growing tenure in England. It houses a higher proportion of poor and vulnerable households than any other tenure and contains a higher proportion of the least energy-efficient properties.

The research which focused on private rental sector tenants across two areas of England, Hackney and Rotherham, revealed that tenants face considerable barriers to seeking help with cold homes that are unaffordable to heat. Respondents in both locations experienced dangerously cold homes and rationed their heating in winter due to energy inefficient properties and fears over high heating bills.

The stress of maintaining a tenancy – particularly given the high demand for rental properties – meant that few respondents considered how easy the home would be to heat when finding somewhere to live.

The relationship between tenant and landlord was one characterised by fear on the part of tenants that any complaint may be countered by retaliatory action such as rent increases or eviction if they spoke out. Most tenants felt reluctant to make contact with their landlord and instead found ways to work around problems.

Keeping warm by routinely wearing coats inside the home, keeping blankets in living areas and spending extra time in bed or outside of the home were common practice, as was heating the home for very short periods in order to save money, rather than lobbying landlords for improvements.

Issues such as excess cold, condensation, and extensive damp and mould were widely highlighted, along with increased suffering associated with chronic health conditions (e.g. respiratory diseases and arthritis) known to be exacerbated by cold homes, the emotional strain of insecure tenancies, and living in properties they wouldn’t have chosen to live in.

Over half of the participants used pre-payment methods to pay for their heating and therefore paid higher tariffs but, despite this, many valued pre-payment meters as a method of controlling spending on heating and electricity.

Under the Energy Act (2011) tenants are able to request consent from their landlords to carry out energy efficiency improvements to properties. The landlord cannot unreasonably refuse consent. It is, however, the responsibility of the tenants to arrange funding. Although the majority of respondents were supportive of the Act in principle, the majority felt too afraid to approach their landlord about this.

Dr Aimee Ambrose, senior research fellow from Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR), led the project.

Dr Ambrose said “There is a key voice missing from the debate about energy performance in the private rented sector: that of the tenant. Tenants are under-researched and underrepresented, lacking a collective voice due to the absence of organised groups representing them.

“The picture emerging from the accounts of respondents is one characterised by limited housing choice that leads to the acceptance of poor quality properties that would otherwise be unacceptable, to fear of challenging the landlord in case of retaliatory action, to enduring cold conditions and high bills, and to suffering the consequences for health and wellbeing.

“This research represents a decisive step towards a stronger voice for tenants in the debate about energy efficiency in the private rented sector.”

The full report and research summary can be accessed here.