Publication - Research and analysis

Lived experience of fuel poverty: evidence review

Review of evidence about the lived experience of fuel poverty in Scotland.

25 page PDF

897.8 kB

25 page PDF

897.8 kB

Lived experience of fuel poverty: evidence review

25 page PDF

897.8 kB


1. Literature reviewed


Type of study

Scotland data

Ambrose, A. et al (2016) Energy (in)efficiency: what tenants expect and endure in private rented housing. Eaga Charitable Trust.

Survey with 1800 low income PRS households

48 in-depth interviews with PRS tenants

England (Hackney & Rotherham)

Baker, K. et al. (2019). Never try and face the journey alone: Exploring the face-to-face advocacy needs of fuel poor householders in the United Kingdom. Energy Research & Social Science. 51, 210-219.

Semi-structured interviews with 11 clients accessing energy advocacy services, senior energy officer, and local HA community support worker


Butler, D. & Sherriff, G. (2017). 'It's normal to have damp': Using a qualitative psychological approach to analyse the lived experience of energy vulnerability among young adult households. Indoor and Built Environment. 26(7), 964-979.

6 in-depth semi-structured interviews.

Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis methodology

England (Salford)

Citizen's Advice Scotland (2018a). Speaking up - understanding fuel poverty support needs. Consumer Futures Unit, Citizen's Advice Scotland.

Policy recommendations based on Ipsos MORI & Sheldrick (2017)


Citizen's Advice Scotland (2018b).

Hard-wired problems - delivering effective support to households with electric heating. Consumer Futures Unit, Citizen's Advice Scotland.

4 deliberative workshops conducted by Energy Action Scotland & Glasgow Caledonian University with electric heating users in mixed urban/rural, remote rural, island areas (see Energy Action Scotland 2018)

Survey with support agencies

stakeholder workshop.

Interviews with 4 industry reps


Western Isles

Argyll & Bute

Kyle of Sutherland

Darby, S. (2017). Coal fires, steel houses and the man in the moon: local experiences of energy transition. Energy Research & Social Science. 31, 120-127.

Interviews and observations with low income householders and their energy advisers

central Scotland - West Lothian

De Haro, M.T. & Koslowski, A. (2013) Fuel poverty and high-rise living: using

community-based interviewers to investigate tenants' inability to keep warm in their homes. Journal of Poverty and Social Justice. 21(2), 109-121.

Case study of block of flats, 101 structured interviews with residents.

Trained community-based interviewers, many of whom had lived experience of fuel poverty.


Energy Action Scotland (2018). Research into support and advice services for households in Scotland reliant on electric heating. Consumer Futures Unit, Citizen's Advice Scotland.

See Citizen's Advice Scotland (2018b)


Western Isles

Argyll & Bute

Kyle of Sutherland

Green, M. (2007). Voices of people experiencing poverty in Scotland. Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Focus group study with 10 focus groups in first stage with different groups in areas across Scotland & 7 focus groups that Save the Children conducted with children and young people. Second stage with 1 focus group with selection of participants from stage 1.


Ipsos MORI & Sheldrick, B. (2017). Support needs of those in fuel poverty – research report. Ipsos MORI Scotland.

25 in-depth interviews with sample purposively identified from SHCS recontact database


Lindsey, K. et al. (2010). Refugees' Experiences and Views of Poverty in Scotland. Scottish Poverty Information Unit, Glasgow Caledonian University.

Key informant interviews with staff from organisations working with refugees

Focus groups with 12 refugees


Longhurst, N. & Hargreaves, T. (2019). The emotions of fuel poverty: Energy vulnerability and the lived experience of social housing tenants in the United Kingdom. In press

16 semi-structured interviews with social housing tenants, 10 interviews & focus group with Housing Association employees

England (Norwich)

Melone, H. (2019). Gender-based perspectives of fuel poverty in Scotland.

MREs dissertation. Glasgow Caledonian University.

Cross-sectional collective case studies.

7 semi-structured interviews.

Stratified purposeful sampling using gatekeeper organisations


Kirkcaldy Fife


Western Isles

Argyll, Lomond and the Islands

Middlemiss, L. & Gillard, R. (2015). Fuel poverty from the bottom-up:

characterising household energy vulnerability through the lived

experience of the fuel poor. Energy Research & Social Science. 6, 146-154.

17 in-depth interviews with 15 households. Cohort 1 in 2010 with 7 participants. Cohort 2 in 2013 with 10 participants including 2 from Cohort 1.




Mould, K. & Baker, R. (2017). Documenting fuel poverty from the householders' perspective. Energy & Social Sciences. 31, 21-31.

Observational ethnographics

15 illustrative case studies - referral forms from Energy Advocacy Service


Sheriff, G. et al. (2019). Fuel Poverty in the Western Isles: 10 Lessons, Interim Report of the Moving Together Project. Sustainable Housing & Urban Studies Unit, University of Salford.

19 semi-structured interviews, with Tighean Innse Gall staff, householders, a member of NHS staff, and stakeholders involved in the Moving Together project.

2 stakeholder workshops held in Stornoway and Benbecula in Sept 2019.

Western Isles

Snell, C. et al. (2018). Working Paper - Policy Pathways to Justice in Energy Efficiency. UK Energy Research Centre

Qualitative interviews with:

  • stakeholders working on policy development,
  • practitioners involved in delivery of EE schemes,

households eligible for or received EE


England, Wales, Northern Ireland

Trevisan, F. et al. (2014). The recession, austerity measures and health. GoWell.

GoWell project with 15 study communities

25 semi-structured interviews


Wright, F. (2004). Old and Cold: Older People and Policies Failing to Address Fuel Poverty. Social Policy & Administration. 38(5), 488-503.

Questionnaire & in-depth interview with sample of 58 older homeowners and 6 private renters


England, Wales

2. Lived experience research

In psychology, experience refers to internal interactions between the mind, body and behaviour. Awareness of such interactions turns experience into 'an experience'. Lived experience research is interested in how an individual experiences and makes sense of a given phenomenon and how they respond to these experiences (Willig & Stainton-Rogers 2010; McIntosh & Wright 2018). The 'lived' aspect of lived experience refers to way that people live through an experience with unfolding subjective states of consciousness, and to the way in which lived experience is rooted in the everyday.

Lived experience research has its origins in the field of phenomenology. Although it is not a fixed construct and continues to evolve in different ways in related fields and methodologies, it is underpinned by particular philosophical understandings, concerns and methodological features.

Key understandings:

  • focussed on the individual, involving detailed examination of the research participant as a particular unique individual (idiographic focus)
  • embodied - involving emotions, feelings, the physical body and senses, as well as thoughts
  • situated - an individual's experience is context-specific and cannot be meaningfully separated from internal and external factors influencing that experience (psycho-social, cultural, historical, political, physical/environmental)
  • does not produce objective truth about a phenomenon, separate from the individual's thoughts and feelings about it. An individual's account is not "incontestable evidence" (McIntosh & Wright 2018)
  • the researcher cannot access the individual's experience itself. All attempts to understand other people's experience are "necessarily interpretative" in a double hermeneutic: the researcher is "trying to make sense of the participant trying to make sense of what is happening to them" (Smith, Flowers & Larkin 2009)

Key concerns:

  • research approach that is empathetic, sensitive and responsive
  • 'giving voice' to the research participants through a contextualised discussion of the research findings that draws on quotes from interview transcripts
  • reflexivity - entanglement of the researcher with the participant and with the sense-making process is recognised and worked with

Methodological features:

  • research participants are selected on the basis that they grant access to a particular perspective on the phenomena under study (purposive homogenous sampling)
  • in-depth qualitative and inductive approach that engages with the complexity and nuance of situated lived experience e.g. through longitudinal and ethnographic methods such as in-depth interviews, diaries, and observation.
  • close engagement with the details and particularities of the research participant's situated experience
  • construction of a highly textured and detailed narrative about the research participants' experiences
  • critical hermeneutic interpretation - people are not necessarily consciously aware of all the processes involved in their cognition and behaviour (Willig & Stainton-Rogers 2010). This means that taking the self-reported account at face value is most likely inadequate for gaining a deep understanding, and the researcher will want to go beyond a merely descriptive analysis to developing alternative narratives informed by existing theory.

Whilst lived experience research is focussed on the unique individual, it can reveal something meaningful and significant about the phenomenon under study. All lived experiences are subjective but they are also intersubjective: the individual is embedded in a social world where lives are talked about, shared meanings are constructed and commonalities in experience emerge (which may be referred to as the "shared typical"). Cross-case analysis is performed to identify convergences and divergences between cases. There is an idea that a particular constellation of feelings may characterise a certain historical era or generation of people, often referred to as a "structure of feeling". A related concept is "abiding affects" which refers to feelings that endure over shorter timescales and are specific to particular social groups that have a set of experiences in common (Hoggett 2009).

3. Further references

Hoggett, P. (2009). Collective feelings and the politics of affect and emotion. International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion, 3(2).

McIntosh, I. & Wright, S. (2018.). Exploring what the notion of 'lived experience' offers for social policy analysis. Journal of social policy, 1-19. Doi:10.1017/s0047279418000570

Mould, R. et al (2018). Rethink fuel poverty as a complex problem. Nature Energy. 3(8), 610-612.

Smith, J. Flowers, P. & Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Theory, Method and Research. London: Sage.

Willig, C. & Stainton-Rogers, W. (2010). Introduction. In C. Willig & W. Stainton-Rogers (Eds), The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research in Psychology. London: Sage, pp. 1-13.