Lived experience of fuel poverty: research

Qualitative research into the lived experience of fuel poverty in Scotland.

Appendix D: Discussion guide: first interview

Home Heating Research

Discussion Guide – First Interview

Note to interviewer: we will already know information about the participant from the sample and the recruitment screener- including whether in FP/extreme FP/enhanced, age, disability status, number of adults/children in hh, type of heating used etc - make sure you refer back and familiarise yourself with each participants’ circumstances before interview begins, and adapt questions accordingly.


Enhance our understanding of participants’ home life and their heating regime/set up to inform the focus of the main interview.

Get an initial idea of how satisfied participants are with the effectiveness and cost of using of their heating system.

A key objective is to understand how participants ­­feel about their situation of living in FP/EFP (not just what they do), so allow time for this to be explored at relevant stages.

Introduction (2-3mins)

Aim: Explain the purpose of the research, cover practicalities (recording, reassurances on anonymity etc), answer any questions.

  • Introduce self and Ipsos MORI
  • Introduce the research: As my colleague will have explained, this research is looking at how people heat their homes and how affordable their heating bills are. We are an independent research company and we’ve been asked by the Scottish Government to speak to people across Scotland. We will be producing a report based on our findings which the Scottish Government will use to understand the issues people face, and the types of support and advice it might be helpful for them to provide to the public.
  • Explain that the interview will last around half an hour and will be followed by a second interview in a week’s time, after which we will give participant a £35 high street voucher as a thank you for taking part.
  • Explain that participation in the research in entirely voluntary and if, at any time, they decide they no longer wish to take part, they can withdraw from the research and have their data deleted.
  • Provide reassurances of anonymity and confidentiality. Explain that no identifying information about individuals will be used in the reporting of the research, and that data will be deleted 3 months after the report is published.
  • No right or wrong answers, just really keen to hear their views.
  • Request permission to record interview.

Living situation (5 mins)

Aim: To build some rapport with participant and re-cap some of the information about their living set-up and financial situation.

  • Thanks again for taking part. How are you today?
  • What would you normally be doing today if you weren’t taking part in this research?

I am going to start with some questions about your living situation and your home and will then come on to questions about how you heat your home later.

I know my colleague asked some questions about your living situation when he called you, so I don’t want to repeat those questions again, but there are a couple of things I just want to confirm first to make sure we have got them right. So, to start:

Note: refer back to information collected at recruitment to cross-check. if anything contradicts recruitment details, note down the updated answer:

Q.1 There are [X] people living in your home at the moment, including [X] children, is that correct?

Q2. And you currently [own/rent] your home, is that correct?

Thanks for confirming that. As I explained, this research is about how people heat their homes and how affordable their fuel is. People heat their homes in different ways, and sometimes the way they heat their home and pay for heating is because of the type of building they live in. So before asking about your own heating system, I’d like to check a couple of details about the building first.

Q3. So, what kind of building do you live in? Prompt if necessary: Is it…

A house or bungalow


A flat, maisonette or apartment (including four-in-a-block or conversion)


A room or rooms


Some other kind of accommodation, please specify:


Ask if property is a house or bungalow (Q3= 1)

Q4. Is it...





Terraced/end of terrace?


Ask if flat/mainsonette (Q3 = 2)

Q5. Is it...

Basement/semi basement


Ground floor/street


1st floor


2nd floor


3rd-4th floor


5th floor or higher


Q6. And how many years have you lived there? If not sure, guess is fine

Heating set-up and perceptions of warmth (around 10 mins)

Aim: To get an initial idea of participant’s satisfaction with their current heating regime and any issues / problems / concerns with their current set-up.

Thank you for the details you have given so far. I’d now like to focus on the heating in your home.

Q7. First of all, how warm would you say your home overall is on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is uncomfortably cold, 10 is uncomfortably warm, and 5 is “just right”?

Probe fully for reasons behind score

  • Is this warm enough for you?
  • Out of 10, how warm would you like your home to be?
  • You said you would have liked your home to be a score out of 10, why did you say that?
  • Does the warmth in your home vary at different times of year?
  • Do you think other people living in your home rate it differently? And why do you think that is?

Check back details from the recruitment screener on energy source and heating type

Q8. I understand you have [heating type] installed in your home, is that correct?

  • Do you use that system? (Note: we checking here for any difference between the system that is installed and the system they actually use)
  • If no: What do you use instead?
  • If yes: Do you use any other, additional, means of heating you home? For example portable heaters?

Q9. How often do you turn on/use …?

(Note any differences here in patterns between central heating and ad-hoc/portable hearing if relevant)

  • Your central heating (If they have this)
  • Any other forms of heating you use?
  • Do you use the heating all day, or at specific times? (Prompt: morning and evening / morning only / evening only / only when really cold?)
  • Do you usually heat all of the rooms, or just some of them (and which ones?)

Q10. Overall how satisfied, or unsatisfied, are you with the heating system installed in your home?

Very satisfied


Fairly satisfied


Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied


Fairly unsatisfied


Very unsatisfied


Probe fully:

  • Why do you say that?
  • Do you think it works well for your needs, or not?
  • Do you think you heating system is adequate?
  • In what ways, if any, could it be improved?

Q11. Would you like to use the heating more or less than you do at the moment?

  • Why do you say that?
  • What, if anything, prevents you from using it more/less than you would like to?

Paying for heating (5 mins)

Aim: To understand how participant pays for heating and their perceptions of this

I’d like to turn now to how you pay for heating. People pay for heating in different ways, and we are interested in finding out a bit more about why people choose to pay the ways they do, and how they feel about that. We will talk about this in more detail when we meet/talk next week, but for now:

Q12. Do you know who your energy supplier is at the moment? (note name of supplier if they know)

Q13. And have you always been with them, or have you switched suppliers?

If they switchedThanks, I’ll ask you a bit more about why and how you switched in the next interview.

Note: we will be covering experience of switching in more detail in the main interview, so for now just want to check if they ever have.

Q14. Could you tell me how you pay for your heating at the moment? Ask openly but use prompts below if needed.

If they use both gas and electricity, they may pay differently for these. so ask about each in turn and note whether or not they use the same payment and if not note the difference.

Monthly Direct Debit

(pay a previously agreed amount each month)


Variable Monthly Direct Debit

(pay only for what you use each month)


Quarterly Direct Debit

(pay your bill every 3 months by bank transfer)


Quarterly Cash or Cheque

(pay your bill every 3 months by cash or writing a cheque)


Prompt Pay

(pay by cash or cheque and receive a discount for paying within a set amount of days)


“Pay As You Go”

(Pay in advance for your energy and top up your meter whenever you need to)


Other, please specify:


Don’t know


Q15. How satisfied, or unsatisfied, are you with the method by which you pay for your heating?

Very satisfied


Fairly satisfied


Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied


Fairly unsatisfied


Very unsatisfied


  • Why do you say that?
  • In what ways, if any, could it be improved?

Q16. And how do you feel about the amount you pay for your heating?

  • Prompt: Would you describe it as expensive, reasonable, or cheap?

Q17. And generally, how do you feel about the cost of heating your home at the moment?

(Probe fully and note anything else not already covered above)

Wrap up & Pre-task (2-3 mins)

Aim: To bring interview to a close, explain pre-task and confirm details for next interview.

That’s all the questions I wanted to ask you today, is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t covered?

I just have a few final things to go over. You might remember from the first phone call, we’d like you to complete a simple heating diary for a few days between now and our next appointment. It will ask you make a note of what time of day you use the heating and how warm your home feels. I can send it to you in the post so it should arrive in the next day or two. It should be quite straightforward to fill out, but if you have any questions please just call me or drop me an email. Does that sound alright? Any questions?

  • Thank participant for taking part [stop recording]
  • Confirm date, time and location of next interview




  • Ask them if they have any questions
  • Make sure they have our contact details if they have any questions later on



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