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Working in partnership to deliver warmer homes


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Peter Smith, National Energy Action

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Working in partnership to deliver warmer homes

  1. 1. Peter Smith External Affairs Manager National Energy Action
  2. 2. The basics  NEA is a national charity working to ensure affordable energy for disadvantaged energy consumers.  NEA seeks to promote this objective through a wide range of activities including policy analysis, rational and constructive dialogue with decision-makers, practical initiatives and training and educational initiatives  From our practical experience and evidence working on this area for over 30 years we believe fuel poverty is damaging the health of millions of households across the UK.
  3. 3. Fuel Poverty Energy inefficient homes Low incomes Under /over occupancy Don’t heat the home Ill health Housing Disrepair Heat the home Fuel Debt High fuel costs The factors that contribute to the problem…
  4. 4. How bad is it? ‘It’s horrible. It’s got black stuff on the walls and bathroom and when my Mum paints it, it all goes black again.’ Ben, 8, lives in an overcrowded flat with a severe damp and mould problem.
  5. 5. A new approach  Recent announcements by the UK Government set out a radical departure from the existing approach to addressing fuel poverty in England.  The result is that the Government propose to not only extend and modify the timetable to address fuel poverty but have also confirmed that they will modify the current definition of fuel poverty.  The low income high cost measure (LIHC), proposed by John Hills and supported by the Government has a new method for defining fuel poverty in England, consisting of two parts; the number of households that have both low incomes and high fuel costs and the depth of fuel poverty amongst these households.
  6. 6. How useful is a new approach?
  7. 7. Changes in distribution of who is most effected  The historic fuel poverty methodology takes account of the vulnerability status of households by applying a more generous heating regime to people who are likely to spend more time in the home (e.g. households containing pensioners, families with young children and long term sick or disabled).  This means that these types of household tend to have high energy requirements and are more likely to be classified as fuel poor.  However, the LIHC indicator does not capture the fact that these types of vulnerable fuel poor households are more likely to suffer negative health impacts as a result of their fuel poverty.  The fact that certain types of people are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of fuel poverty is an important consideration for fuel poverty policies.  In order to help us better reflect the impact of cold homes in policy development, DECC have been working with experts to develop a methodology to estimate and monetise the health impacts of fuel poverty policies
  8. 8. What doesn’t change is the evidence  Below 16oC ~ increased risk of respiratory disorders (Collins 1986, 1993)  “Acute respiratory infectious diseases cause the highest mortality when they affect a vulnerable section of the population, such as elderly people already suffering from chronic disabling respiratory illness” (Collins 2000)  Below 12oC ~ cardiovascular stress occurs (Collins 1993; Lan Chang et al 2004; Howieson and Hogan 2005)
  9. 9. Health effects of low indoor temperatures Comfortable and healthy Possible discomfort. No risk except for the vulnerable (eg, elderly) Cardiovascular risk Beyond 2 hours, risk of hypothermia Uncomfortable. Risk of respiratory conditions, and to mental health 6 ºC 12 ºC 16 ºC 18 ºC 21 ºC 24 ºC
  10. 10. Nor does the approach for coping with Fuel Poverty  Decrease energy consumption by using less energy than really needed for heating, cooking, lighting, etc.  Use other means for heating, cooking and lighting
  11. 11. with different consequences…. Direct  Insufficient appropriate energy for heating (space and water), lighting, food storage (refrigeration), and cooking Indirect  Inappropriate forms of ~  heating (flueless gas or oil heaters)  lighting (candles, oil lamps)  Inadequate or no ventilation (blocking ventilators…)  No hot water  Food spoilage and contamination  Low quality meals (avoiding cooking…)
  12. 12. ….and the effects on health and safety  Low indoor temperature  Respiratory and cardiovascular diseases  Poor mental health, low self esteem, and social isolation • Poor indoor air quality  Dampness, mould growth  Asthma and allergies  CO poisoning (acute and chronic)  Fire (and burn injuries)  Accidental injury (falls, collisions…)  Poor personal and domestic hygiene  Food poisoning  Unbalanced diet (poor nutrition/obesity)
  13. 13. These negative health outcomes result in…  Suffering for the individual and household  Loss to the individual, and household ~  Working days lost  School days lost (under-achievement)  Cost to society, including ~  increased demand on the health sector and care costs
  14. 14. Nor how we work in partnership to assist the most vulnerable – some examples Health Through Warmth
  15. 15. Gaps and challenges (1/2)  Existing initiatives which seek to exploit the synergy between positive health outcomes and local or national attempts to reduce carbon emissions and fuel poverty have not yet been adopted at scale and there is a need to reflect on what approaches work and don’t and why.  Whilst some Primary Care Trusts, local authorities and/or suppliers have developed innovative roles for local GPs to refer vulnerable patients into energy efficiency assistance programmes, on the whole GPs and other health practitioners are not fully aware of how this form of intervention could complement their attempts to improve public health or be embedded into their day to day responsibilities or practices.  At the same time, the aforementioned groups have not yet fully explored the extent to which mutual (or differing) avoided (or reduced) costs can present a compelling business case to enhance initiatives of this type.
  16. 16. Gaps and challenges (2/2) • Methodological limits and understanding and categorisation of the bottom up costs • Health impacts could take many years to emerge • Extent of intervention delivered vary • Fundamental issue of adequate funding needs to be addressed. • Instead of being a major refurbishment programme the obligations on energy suppliers are currently regressive and under current restrictions will assist a small proportion of the fuel poor in England. • Many factors cannot be controlled, eg, behaviour (reduced energy use rather than extra warmth; whole house heated rather than reduced energy use)
  17. 17. Why do we continue campaigning?  It is vital that a range of actors understand the importance of helping poorer households keep safe, well and warm and those households themselves know where they can go for help.  It is also critical that there is a broader understanding that by tackling fuel poverty it is not only possible to improve people’s lives, it can improve local areas and enhance streetscapes, put money back into the economy and make a sizeable contribution to efforts to reduce carbon emissions within the UK housing stock.  Without this work, the risk is that poorer households continue to benefit least from energy policies whilst paying a higher share of the costs despite emitting the least emissions (as well as more EWDs, increased health costs and growing health inequalities).
  18. 18. “Tackling fuel poverty offers a multiple payoff: better living standards and conditions for people with low incomes, an improved and more energy efficient housing stock, fewer winter deaths and reduced costs for the NHS”. If we do act…..
  19. 19. Thank you.