Winter Warmer Project

Author:
Organisation:
Generate Opportunities
Date: 2013
Location:

Rationale

Households on low incomes are known to be vulnerable to fuel poverty. People with disabilities are often excluded from the labour market and reliant on welfare benefits, which places them at an increased risk of being fuel poor. Measures to alleviate fuel poverty, including advice and guidance on energy efficiency, are widely promoted, but the reach of these programmes among home occupants with disabilities is not known. People with learning disabilities often face extra barriers to accessing such resources.





Key research Question

The project focused on adults with a learning disability living independently as tenants or homeowners. It set out to investigate what choices they made with regard to energy use, including the extent to which they engaged with energy efficiency messages and if such information influenced their behaviour. In addition, it attempted to gauge levels of fuel poverty among this group.



Summary of activity

The study was based on questionnaire data gathered from 12 adults with learning disabilities, all of whom were living in London. Surveys were completed across at least two visits with each participant and explored aspects such as energy use, awareness of efficiency measures and the status of property, with active support to install energy-saving measures and build better awareness.



Methodologies



Findings

  • Using an animated film prompted some elements of long-term observable behaviour change (e.g. turning lights off and not leaving appliances on stand-by), which was maintained through encouragement and visual prompts (e.g. Post-it Notes and wall thermometers).
  • The group were receptive to the messages. However, this was primarily related to cost incentives. The principle of saving energy appeared abstract and, while expenditure reductions were welcome, participants appeared to struggle to relate this to their one energy efficiency activity. Overheating was commonly detected.
  • The majority paid using top-up cards, because the system of tariffs and payment options was perceived as complex; while this was expensive, people felt it offered them control over usage and spend.
  • Significant assistance was required to implement practical measures.


Recommendations

  • Promoting energy efficiency should form part of the support provided by those agencies working with and on behalf of people with learning disabilities. If existing assistance includes help with budgeting or other financial advice, this could incorporate help to review payment methods/tariffs.
  • Organisations working with people with a learning disability should pay attention to their home environment and ensure they are supported to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
  • Energy suppliers should make available tailored payment options that offer the same security and ease as top-up cards but not the financial premium, so that people with learning disabilities are not discriminated against.
  • Landlords (including social landlords) should prioritise maintenance for tenants with learning disabilities.


Other themes



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