How is this tackling the climate crisis?
This includes the East Sussex Warm Homes Check Service, which gives owner occupiers and people who rent privately free advice and support on making their home more energy efficient. Those on a low income qualify for a free home visits and upgrades. These include small works such as improving insulation, as well as bigger interventions such as insulation or new, more efficient boilers (subject to funding).
For many councils resourcing is a key barrier to replicating this kind of work – especially the lack of long-term government funding.
For Hastings the lack of a national strategy to cut fuel poverty – including providing clarity on which owner occupiers were eligible for help – was a challenge at the start. Now there is a national Sustainable Warmth strategy for vulnerable households which covers owner occupiers and renters alike – the definitions are not perfect but it should help councils starting schemes for owner occupiers now.
Hastings councils found that the close partnership working between all the local authorities within East Sussex and bringing in health partners, was key to overcoming these barriers, including the council’s ability to secure funding from a wider range of sources.
The partners are continually raising awareness of fuel poverty through training for frontline staff and communications, as well as highlighting the numerous benefits of improving energy efficiency across all levels of local authorities, community and voluntary sector. As well as raising awareness of the help that’s on offer, and who is eligible for this, this is also intended to help ensure that frontline staff can advise householders on reducing their energy use.
Another factor in the success of the project is that a continuous service has been provided for many years, with a single point of contact. Many initiatives are stop-start in response to funding from central government. Other councils may want to consider how best they can offer continuity even within this challenging funding situation.
Councils should also add their voice to calls for more long term funding for local authorities to tackle fuel poverty, for example by signing up to a Blueprint for accelerating climate action at a local level, which has been published by Friends of the Earth, Ashden and other local governmental, environmental and research organisations.
What impact has it had?
In 2019, a detailed evaluation was undertaken of heating and insulation upgrades in 149 owner-occupied or privately rented homes in Hastings and Rother. These upgrades had been funded by the local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, prioritising areas with the highest levels of fuel poverty
The evaluation found that these measures had substantial benefits for people’s health and wellbeing. The programme also had a positive impact on wider determinants of mental and physical health, including reductions in stress and isolation.