5. Conclusion & lessons learned
This report has presented an evaluation of the HES Homecare pilot, which was set up following a recommendation to provide additional support to those living in rural fuel poverty from the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force (SRFPTF). The HES Homecare pilot aimed to test the Energycarer approach to tackling rural fuel poverty in two rural areas: Anandale & Eskdale (South West Scotland) and Moray East (North East Scotland). The Energycarer approach seeks to provide support in accessing energy retrofitting opportunities and funding for vulnerable households who may require multiple points of contact and face-to-face visits, rather than single phone calls offered through traditional services. The pilot sought to reach 220 households in the year from March 2017 - March 2018; this was extended to March 2019. By November 2018 approximately 150 households had been engaged.
Evaluation of this pilot has included data collected through a social survey and internal temperature monitoring with households receiving the service and a control group receiving a standard HES Community Liaison Officer service. The evaluation also included interviews with the HES Homecare team, a series of case studies and a live learning document compiled by the team. In part because of the vulnerability of the client group, the social survey and internal temperature monitoring did not reach the number of participants required for statistical analysis, which means that the findings from this aspect of the evaluation do not form a robust basis for policy development. Further, the HES Homecare pilot was so intrinsically connected to an existing complex network of support for vulnerable households that it is difficult to evaluate the distinctive contribution that the pilot activities made.
There are many people in need of more help for energy efficient retrofitting; however, this evaluation has not provided evidence that the HES Homecare model is the most appropriate to tackle this. Thermal monitoring and accounts from the Energycarers identified that recipients of the service were extremely cold in their homes and living in inappropriate conditions. The pilot struggled to reach the numbers targeted, demonstrating the nature of these challenges for identifying and supporting vulnerable groups in rural areas with a high index of multiple deprivation. The pilot suggests that a more systematic strategy, including support for public health and social care services operating in liaison with neighbourhood and community organisations is very important. Identifying the differing criteria for eligibility, and subsequently supporting recipients to gain benefits and services proved to be slow, and overall transaction costs were high. Thus, future approaches will need to be delivered in conjunction with the review and simplification of existing funding streams. This is in line with the Fuel Poverty Forum's recommendation to collaborate with existing local social and community networks because these groups know their localities and can tailor support accordingly. The pilot has also demonstrated that a higher level of support is valuable in encouraging reluctant groups to take up energy efficiency measures in the home. A fundamental point here is that telephone services can be inadequate for guiding people through the patchwork of advice and funding that can be utilised for different aspects of upgrade work. These findings indicate a series of lessons for tackling rural fuel poverty in the future:
Lessons for delivering a service to tackle rural fuel poverty:
- Longer timeframes are required to establish the organisational structure and relationships with partner organisations in schemes of this type.
- An area-based approach to identifying vulnerable people and subsequent upgrade of buildings and heating is likely to be required. Use and resource local community organisations and networks to identify vulnerable people. Individual Energycarers juggling this work alongside delivering the service may have had an impact on its overall reach.
- A single finance mechanism which incorporates a range of physical measures (including heating, insulation and glazing) alongside remedial works (to tackle damp, condensation and mould) is required.
- The individual case approach applied through HES Homecare is resource intensive; work needs to be done in order to develop a stronger area-based approach and utilise existing local networks and services more efficiently for the coordination of an area-based strategy.
Lessons for future evaluation of pilot schemes:
- The nature of the pilot - with a pre-determined and short timeframe - affected the ability to collect evaluation data. This especially impacted the internal temperature monitoring, which requires data to be collected over long timeframes and multiple heating seasons for valid comparisons.
- Social evaluation tools need to be developed further. For the vulnerable group in this pilot, this includes a more straightforward and shorter survey, along with trained interviewers to support with data collection.
- Opportunities should be explored for internal temperature monitoring equipment that does not require repeated visits to collect information, particularly when working with vulnerable groups. Smart metering might support with this type of monitoring in the future.