LEAP - Make a Difference Project
|Project value||High (£130,295 - £450,000)|
|Refresh Elements||Broaden - Older people|
Background to group
Lightburn Elderly Association Project (LEAP) is a charitable organisation based in Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire that aims to support older people (aged 50+) to remain active and independent in their own homes. In 2010, LEAP received the distinguished Queen's Award for Voluntary Service and, in 2014, the Quality in Befriending Award. LEAP had previously been granted CCF project funding - from April 2009 for three years and from April 2011 for a year. Both of these projects provided advice to elderly householders in relation to reducing energy costs / staying affordably warm, and decreasing associated CO2 emissions in the Rutherglen, Cambuslang and East Kilbride areas.
Reasons for project and inspiration
Following the successful implementation of the two previous CCF projects, LEAP sought to expand its services into new geographical areas of South Lanarkshire. It successfully applied for CCF3 project funding in order to apply the skills and experience gained on these projects to deliver a similar project in Hamilton, Blantyre and Larkhall. These are largely urban neighbourhoods and contain localities that are included in the bottom 15% of disadvantaged communities in Scotland, according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. This project appealed to the broaden refresh theme; LEAP is a community group that works with deprived / hard-to-reach people, specifically older people. The project was solely funded by CCF; funding was not sought from other sources.
Aims and approach
The main aim of the project was to provide advice to elderly householders in relation to reducing energy costs, staying affordably warm and decreasing associated CO2 emissions. Specific project outcomes, to be implemented through a combination of staff and volunteers, were as follows.
- Raise awareness of actions taken within the home that contribute to climate change, and empower communities to make changes to reduce their CO2 emissions.
- Work with households to provide energy savings solutions and devices.
- Provide guidance on grants available for loft and cavity wall insulation.
- Deliver 20 presentations about energy efficiency solutions per area per year.
- Provide a 'tariff support' advocacy service to householders who were dealing with utilities companies.
- Recruit and train 2-4 home energy efficiency trainees and 22 local volunteers.
- Work with local residents to reduce their CO2 emissions by encouraging low carbon travel options and the purchase of locally produced food (although this outcome was not addressed strategically).
These outcomes were set to reduce community CO2 emissions by 3000 tonnes through offering advice and changing behaviours within 900 homes throughout the three targeted communities.
Achieving Behaviour Change
The target audience for the project was elderly members of the Hamilton, Blantyre and Larkhall communities. They were deemed to be suitable parties to engage with as LEAP had had success with this type of group on earlier CCF projects relating to energy efficiency.
A summary of the project activities, measures and behaviour change findings arranged in terms of ISM contexts is as follows.
- Project activities required to be sensitive to tenant priorities - reducing energy costs and not addressing climate change was the primary motivator for community members.
- Anecdotally, cost savings were held in some cases to potentially result in greater energy use (and CO2 emissions) as energy became more affordable through project activities.
- Energy advice given had to be sensitive to the lifestyles/preferences of householders (e.g. hours spent indoors, age and comfort requirements.)
- Utilities companies and 'door-steppers' were not trusted by older people; project participants had to work patiently to establish trust with some tenants.
- Older people were not used to the idea of regularly changing energy supplier in order to get the best deal; explaining this was a particular project focus.
- Energy consumption behavioural norms were challenged through education at informative community events.
- Lack of an established presence in the new areas and staffing issues were barriers to project implementation.
- Effective relationships were established with other local community organisations, agencies (through referrals) and local authorities, to provide shared knowledge and tenant benefits.
- 'Word of mouth' within local communities was an important means of information dissemination; this fact was used to streamline / make more effective project communication.
- 'Hard' energy efficiency measures (e.g. loft and cavity wall insulation, new heating systems) were promoted through energy efficiency assessments (although funding for these measures was curtailed by the withdrawal of existing external funding streams).
- Energy efficiency behaviours were encouraged by remote control electrical sockets.
Successes and Benefits
Energy consumption and climate change advice was delivered to 516 of an anticipated 900 homes and community members. For each household, energy surveys were conducted, heating systems were set in accordance with occupant needs and home energy solutions were suggested. Subsequent monitoring and evaluation of households determined much of the energy efficiency advice given (e.g. not overfilling kettles, not putting electrical devices on standby when not in use, reducing washing machine water temperatures) was still being followed. Persisting with this behaviour yielded tangible reductions in energy consumption costs for elderly community members.
It was estimated that householders who took advantage of the energy fuel bill tariff checking service offered saved, in total, £31,778 over the life of the project. This equates to an average of £175 per year per household. Furthermore, 65 advocacy cases - ranging from changing to a simple pre-payment meter to multi-agency liaisons in relation to an expensive-to-run heating system - were supported.
Project volunteers and trainees were trained on how to assess homes for energy efficiency and to read energy meters. Upskilling was recognised as enhancing employability. Furthermore, two members of staff were awarded formal qualifications: one received a City and Guilds Domestic Energy Assessor qualification; the other was recognised as a Green Deal Assessor; and both worked towards a SCQF 9 Certificate in Leadership.
The baseline CO2 calculations for the CCF3 project were based on those of the previous CCF projects, together with estimates of how many homes could be reached and the energy efficiency of known measures. However, changes to the CCF-approved method for calculating CO2 reductions from domestic energy, to make it more robust and realistic, and the introduction of the 'Green Deal' (resulting in a reduction in alternative grant schemes to implement energy efficiency measures) made the targets more difficult to meet. A slower than expected engagement rate in the new areas also contributed to a gap between the CO2 reduction baseline target and what was realistically achievable.
Challenges and Lessons Learned
The failure to develop and implement a strategic monitoring and evaluation approach to measuring CO2 emission savings was a barrier to achieving project outcomes and left the final project manager with the task of gathering two years' worth of historical energy consumption data. The end result was that CO2 savings that could be verified were significantly less than estimated in the application.
Issues with the management of the project in the initial stages tempered the effectiveness of project activities and led to a high turnover of staff (especially those in the role of Volunteer Recruitment Officer - four in turn were employed) and volunteers. Significantly, in order to increase the likelihood of meeting its stated outcomes, the project changed from being volunteer-led to employing full-time staff in its later stages to fulfil the same roles. Although issues with the quality of staff can be difficult to anticipate, the project team concluded that it was important to have more robust delivery mechanisms in place so that personnel changes would not have such an adverse impact on project activities.
Legacy / Looking Forward
The project's principal legacy was the reduction in energy consumption and associated fuel bills amongst a significant number of the members of the target area communities. A further long-term benefit was developing groups of local people who were highly-trained in energy efficiency assessment. The project team noted that if they were to attempt this type of project again it would not do so via a volunteering model, an accepted CCF requirement. Rather, although volunteers would still be used, there would be a greater focus on employing staff to deliver project aims.
Email: Debbie Sagar