Working in partnership, Worcestershire County Council, Warwickshire County Council and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council collaborated on a heating system replacement programme following a successful bid for £325,000 from National Energy Action’s Warm and Healthy Homes Fund.
Working in partnership, Worcestershire County Council, Warwickshire County Council and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council collaborated on a heating system replacement programme following a successful bid for £325,000 from National Energy Action’s Warm and Healthy Homes Fund. Each authority's public health or housing services also provided match funding and Worcestershire County Council project and contract managed the scheme. The aim of the two-year project was to tackle fuel poverty and support residents to keep warm and well.
The project was aimed at privately owned households where a member of the household had a diagnosed long-term health condition made worse by living in a cold home. To be eligible the householder needed to be in receipt of means-tested benefits or have a low income (under £16,010) with a broken, or old and inefficient, heating system.
The first point of contact with households was local energy charity Act on Energy's energy advisor, who completed initial eligibility assessments over the telephone. If a householder was deemed eligible, a follow-up home visit to collect evidence of eligibility was arranged.
This home visit helped to identify other issues which needed to be addressed prior to installation, such as hoarding, pets and additional support requirements. The energy advisor also completed a standardised health questionnaire with the householder.
All installations were completed by delivery partner PH Jones (part of British Gas).
Most installations were gas boilers with a smaller number of oil boilers and electric night storage heaters.
Carbon monoxide detectors were installed where required.
Across the whole project area, 130 heating systems were installed across the three project areas. Energy Performance Certificates were completed before and after installations to help evaluate the benefit of the project and its contribution towards the national fuel poverty strategy aims.
Installation of new heating systems moved households out of the lowest energy efficiency rating band (no properties now have a G rating). There was an increase of 75 per cent in the number of properties in the EPC band C and anticipated average saving of £316 per household per annum as a result of the new heating. Some households can be expected to save considerably more. In some instances, the project removed heating systems that were over 40 years old and needed additional works, such as asbestos removal, to complete the job.
The contractor was able to provide adaptations to improve accessibility to the new system and ensure it met residents' needs. Adaptations included raising Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) to make them easier to reach and installing wireless programmers for less mobile residents unable to get to the boiler to alter controls.
Worcestershire County Council's Public Health team completed an assessment of the expected benefits that could be realised by investing in a project such as this.
They used a measurement called 'Quality Adjusted Life Years' (QALY), which provides an indication of the benefits of an intervention. For a project to be cost effective for the benefit it returns, the cost per QALY should be less than £20,000. This project had a cost per QALY of £17,300 using conservative estimations. Assuming the intervention solves 100 per cent of the cold home problem, the maximum benefits realisable over 1-5 years were estimated to be £295,000 to health and care services, compared to an initial outlay of £75,000.
A Worcestershire resident who benefitted from a new Worcester Bosch boiler after being without central heating for seven years said;
My health and wellbeing has really improved, my lungs are much better, my arthritis is more manageable … My happiness is also reflected throughout the family- we’re all so pleased with the outcome. I feel better about myself now… I’d say what you’ve done has kept me alive!”
How is the new approach being sustained?
This project has permanently improved the heating in 130 homes and improved the health and finances of residents and has informed the development of future schemes.
- Many residents with long term health conditions had multiple health conditions affecting both physical and mental health.
- It is important that all contractors provide a service suitable for vulnerable households and can be adapted to customer needs. Some residents will require ' handholding' through phone calls and visits and will require more advisor time.
- Considerable benefit was gained from the project, not only for the households receiving the measures but in building understanding within the project team to deliver similar projects going forward.
- Additional benefits could be seen from these schemes such as a reduction in health and social care demand
- Further work is required with health service teams to determine an appropriate data collection/ data sharing protocol to evaluate impact on the number of GP/hospital visits.
Heather Dawes, Programme Manager – Sustainability, [email protected]