Energy efficiency schemes that are directed at domestic properties use a variety of techniques to communicate with and involve local communities. These can range from the very basic (e.g. leaflets through the door) to much more complex models underpinned by concepts of behaviour change. Across many areas of the public, private and third sectors, community participation in some or all aspects of a programme, from design to delivery, is now regarded as good practice and essential to securing long-term commitment to its objectives. This approach has become mainstreamed in government policy, which made the development of Community Strategies a statutory requirement in each local authority area in 2000. However, the UK government has also pinpointed a shortage of the necessary expertise to deliver this, particularly within local authorities. The centrality of community engagement in fuel poverty work offers an opportunity to share good practice and learning from this arena more widely and raise the profile of the subject.
Key research Question
The aim was to develop a toolkit that offered a clear set of standards and principles to guide policy-makers and programme managers responsible for developing Community Strategies. It was envisioned that the toolkit would outline the best structures, processes and techniques around consultation and partnership development with regard to fuel poverty. This resource would highlight the links between fuel poverty and other priorities including health, housing and the environment and, in so doing, it would aim to ensure that the issue was incorporated into Community Strategies being developed in each local authority area.
Summary of activity
The final version of the toolkit provides an overview of fuel poverty and policy on community planning in the UK, with details of the different statuses in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Research was conducted in 18 local authorities across the UK, with in-depth case studies undertaken in five of these. Workshops were carried out in each case study area with agencies involved in developing the Community Strategy and Fuel Poverty Strategy, including representatives from the local authority, partner organisations and community groups.
The toolkit offers a range of examples from case study areas to illustrate where community participation is working well. In general, it emphasises that recognising and using the expertise gained in previous fuel poverty partnerships and networks (e.g. Warm Zones and Affordable Warmth) can really aid the process of developing a Community Strategy.
The toolkit includes sections dedicated to recommended practice in a wide range of processes, such as how to define the scope of participation and consultation and ensure that effective monitoring and evaluation are built in.
A section titled ‘Further Information and Support’ provides a list of other useful resources. These include good practice guides, such as that on community planning and sustainable development indicators (www.practicalhelp.org.uk/downloads/bn_complan.pdf – LINK DISCONTINUED) or another focusing on effective participation: see HYPERLINK "NULL"www.partnerships.org.uk/part/partguide.rtf