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From the blog

Homes are much healthier through Healthy Homes!

by Emma Taylor

After 362 home visits, more than £125,000 of home improvements and 719 free energy saving packs, PECT’s Healthy Homes project has come to an end.
During 2016, the Healthy Homes project worked with households in Peterborough and Fenland which were suffering- or at risk of suffering- from fuel poverty. The project aimed to reduce the number of households in, or at risk of, fuel poverty; increase the available income of fuel poor households; create carbon savings through improving the energy efficiency of homes; and improve health and wellbeing, especially problems exacerbated by living in a cold home (for example, respiratory or cardiovascular conditions).

In order to do this, the project set up links to receive referrals from partner organisations which were likely to be in touch with priority groups. Households then received a home energy advice visit, to look at potential savings from changing tariff, applying for the Warm Home Discount or implementing behaviour change tips. Households in need of additional support also received fuel debt relief or fully-funded home improvements such as loft or cavity wall insulation and new A-rated boilers.

A couple of months after the end of the project, PECT is now starting to look at the impact this work has had. Pleasingly, 75% of households suffering from fuel poverty at the start of the project are no longer in fuel poverty. Risk factors for households vulnerable to fuel poverty have also been reduced, by improving the energy efficiency of homes and reducing fuel bills. On average, participants saved £288.06 p.a. It’s hoped that this will also lead to longer term savings, with 62% reporting an improved understanding of their energy bills and 86% saying that they would be likely to change tariff or supplier again. Home improvements such as improved insulation and boiler upgrades will reduce carbon emissions by 17,418 kg during 2017 alone, with estimated lifetime savings of 231,644kg.

It’s too early to properly assess the project’s impact on health and wellbeing, particularly as many participants were suffering from long-term, chronic conditions. However, from the initial evaluation that’s been carried out, there has been an interesting link between support through the project and mental wellbeing.

At the start and end of the project, participants were asked to rate their level of agreement with various statements to assess mental wellbeing. At the beginning, responses from the group identified as in need of fuel debt relief were much more negative than responses from project participants as a whole (24% negative statements from all participants compared to 67% for fuel debt relief recipients). At the end of the project, there was a significant increase in positive statements from this group- up from 2% to 24%, while at the same time their negative statements dropped to 50%. Eliminating fuel debt certainly seemed to contribute to a marked improvement in the group’s mental wellbeing.

It will be interesting to track the impact of the project over the longer term. In the meantime, PECT is continuing with its work to reduce fuel poverty, with the Warm Homes South Holland project and involvement in the Local Energy Advice Programme.