Understanding and responding to the health impact of cold homes and fuel poverty

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Nursing and Midwifery


This seminar series aims to generate understanding of the contribution of human behaviour regarding cold homes, fuel poverty and their impact on health by reviewing current evidence, identify evidence gaps and priorities for future research. It will explicitly consider the influence of social and health inequalities, maintain a focus on policy influences, impact and interventions. It aims to add to existing academic knowledge and forge new inter-disciplinary discussions and collaborations. Research is required to generate understanding of the human responses and experience that may place people at risk of fuel poverty, and influence their decision making regarding home heating in terms of heating behaviour, as well as in seeking help and knowledge. It is essential that this inquiry seeks to explain how inequality and wider structural determinents influence human behaviour regarding cold homes and fuel poverty, as well as the more subtle influences of culture, social norms, beliefs, attitudes and values.
This ESRC seminar series builds on two previous events, an Evidence Summit on health, fuel poverty and cold homes was held by the UK Health Forum, Friends of the Earth and Energy Bill Revolution ( UK Health Forum 2013) and second an International roundtable discussion on health and wellbeing impacts of energy efficiency run by the International Energy Agency (IEA, 2013). The applicants of this ESRC application participated in both events and will build on them by taking a cross-sectoral, interdisciplinary approach and taking health and human behavioour as the focus. The seminars ensure cumulative rather than on-off debate and are unique in adopting an emphasis on policy development, intervention and implementation. We will review existing evidence incuding, economic evaluations, identify and adddress evidence gaps, and develop partnerships, questions and proposals for future policy implemetnation and research. The seminar programme is UK led, and will include contributions from across Europe and beyond through the WHO Global Network of Age Friendly Cities, Healthy Cities Network and the International Energy Agency. This will support collaborations for Horizon 2020.
The seminar series brings together a unique partnership of academic, local and national government, charitable and voluntary sector partners. It will add to existing body of academic knowledge and help to forge new inter-disciplinary discussions, theoretical propositions and research collaborations. Interconnections will be explored between academic disciplines, cross government departments and organisations and cross sector. As the seminar series is focused upon the behaviour and vulnerability of high risk groups early dissemination and impact is vital and interim dissemination methods will be adopted via the project website and briefing papers.
The seminars will adopt a lifecourse approach in the first year and look at vulnerability to cold across ages. Seminars in the second year will focus on specific vulnerable groups where little research has been conducted and there are existing social and health inequalities, these are Black and Minorty Ethnic (BME) groups, the rural poor and the socially isolatated. In the final year the focus will be on understanding the current policy enviroment, global and national influences regarding the implications for future evidence based policy.
The seminars will be one day events targeted at 30 people. The morning will consist of presentations followed by structured round table discussions in the afternoon. The final event will be in the form of a mini-conference of up to 100 people to pull together learning from accross the seminar series, agree recommendations and outputs including publications and future research collaborations and projects. All contributers are coonfirmed unless stated.

Planned Impact

This seminar series aims to enhance understanding of the multiple pathways by which cold homes generate fuel poverty, affect people's behaviours, increase risks of illnesses and accidents, constrain fundamental lifestyle choices and impact upon human health and mental well-being. In so doing the seminar series will systematically review current evidence, identify evidence gaps and set out priorities for future research. Impact strategies include ensuring inclusive and appropriate participation, deployment of multiple methodologies, consensus generation, international participation, utilizing existing networks, capacity building, communications and media planning, and continuous output development and dissemination. Since fuel poverty is a domain where responsibility is shared by many agencies (health, environment, housing, energy, etc.) there are many different opportunities for providing input into policymaking and facilitating a cross department policy agenda, locally, nationally and internationally. The aim is to create an opportunity for increasing the evidence base and ensure understanding is maximised through resources and learning.

The seminars aim at cumulative knowledge building though successive debate and events, the strategy will be to ensure early adoption of emerging learning and evidence through appropriate outputs. For example the web-site, briefing papers to target audiences e.g. National Governments, publications and presentations (to relevant professions organisations as well as academic). This will enhance the profile and strengthen the sustainability of collaborative enterprise after the seminar series. Other examples of outputs include; a book to showcase the final seminar outputs, an accessible overview of key research relating to cold homes, health impacts and human behaviour cross-referenced to policy; practitioner information helping to put research into practice, a paper setting out children and young people's perspectives on how the research could be communicated in the future to inform practice. The intention is to build on existing and develop new research and policy collaborations that have mazimum impact for policy and practice. The new partnerships will form the basis for Horizon 2020 applications, amongst others.

The applicants have extensive networks and involvement across organisations and disciplines, therefore creating a unique opportunity for collaboration, learning as well as application of the outputs from the seminars series. New International collaborations will be developed through the seminar series with WHO Networks, International Energy Agency and the Institute for Public Health in Ireland. These new partnerships have potential to have academic impact by forging new research alliances. However, applied policy impact is alos anticipated and intended through these links.

The project website will be placed in the UK Health Forum "Healthy Places" website, with online links to academic and other partner websites. Healthy Places is content rich and easy to find. It is already well known and so will be quick and cheap to set up and maintain and disseminate information from, thus enhancing impact of emerging outputs.

It is anticipated that, through successive debate rather than on-off events, the seminar series will make a step difference to understanding this complex topic linked as it is to such a broad and inter-related policy arena. The aim is for the seminars to provide a platform for sustainable academic and policy development through new collaborations and partnerships, International links and subsequent funded policy and research activity.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
ES/M001946/1 02/02/2015 30/11/2015 £28,744
ES/M001946/2 Transfer ES/M001946/1 01/12/2015 31/12/2018 £17,044
Description As a seminar series much of the activity was focused on sharing recent evidence, identifying research priorities and developing research collaborations. The aim was not to conduct primary research. However, key messages did emerge from discussions that are summarised here.
• Understanding of populations at risk of fuel poverty and its negative health impacts is poorly understood.
• Focus in policy and practice is on older people and children, people with long term conditions and disabilities. Little attention is paid to the heterogeneity of these groups and how they can be supported. E.g. no distinction is made regarding people with different disabilities.
• Policy related to fuel poverty is not always research led. Research responds to rather than informs policy
• Partnership working in policy, practice and research is the only way to address fuel poverty due to its multi-dimensional nature.
• Priority areas for research are:
o Understanding the needs of high risk groups including people with learning disabilities, people with dementia, people who are socially isolated.
o Cultural influences on fuel poverty and home heating behaviour
o Interaction between fuel poverty and wider housing affordability - and the related health impacts.
o A social history of heating - lessons from the past to inform energy transitions for the future
o Evidencing financial savings to health from fuel poverty support and interventions.
Primary research was developed and conducted as a result of the seminar series in the areas of social isolation and adults with learning disabilities.
The final event was held jointly with the UK Fuel Poverty Research Network who will use its networks to take forward future research collaborations.
Exploitation Route Develop further research grant applications to expand knowledge for policy and practice
Dissemination to DECC PHE and other policy contexts
Speak up - a self advocacy group for adults with learning disabilities has secured a £77000 grant from Energy Redress funds for the 'Prioritise me' project. This aims to use the findings to develop resources to support adults with a learning disability to keep warm at home.
The final event was held jointly with the UK Fuel Poverty Research Network who will use its networks to take forward future research collaborations.
Sectors Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/snm/research/fuelpovertyseminarseries
Description briefing papers on seminar website - evidence on vulnerability and frailty/dementia. 3 seminars from March 2017 to March 2018 including 18 May 2017 - Energy poverty social relations and vulnerability, 8 November 2017 - Health impact of cold homes and fuel poverty on black and minority ethnic and migrant communities and 6 February 2018. These seminars had a range of academics, voluntary sector, industry and local/national government representatives. The main impact was through fostering discussion on awareness of health impacts of fuel poverty and cold homes and policy implications. Presentations and outputs of the semianrs are on the project website. http://www.healthyplaces.org.uk/esrc-seminar-series-fuel-poverty/
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

Description Addressing Fuel poverty and cold homes in adults with a learning disability
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact • Following completion of the BWBH project, Speakup Self Advocacy used the findings to secure a £77000 grant from Energy Redress funds for the 'Prioritise me' project. This will use the findings to develop resources to support adults with a learning disability to keep warm at home.
Description EAGA Charitable Trust Research Grant
Amount £19,931 (GBP)
Organisation Eaga Charitable Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2017 
End 05/2019
Description White Rose Collaboration Fund
Amount £75 (GBP)
Funding ID £10,988.50 
Organisation White Rose University Consortium 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2017
Title participatory research with people with a learning disability 
Description As part of the being warm being happy project - that emerged from seminar 3 - we developed participatory research approaches with people with a learning disability - these included co-producing cards to enable co-researchers with a LD to engage in research analysis 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Inclusion of people with LD in the research process 
URL https://beingwarmbeinghappy.org/
Description Fuel poverty research network 
Organisation Fuel Poverty Research Network
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Jointly ran the final event in the seminar series
Collaborator Contribution Jintly ran the final event in the seminar series
Impact Research collaboration to take forward the following project A social history of heating - lessons from the past to inform energy transitions for the future
Start Year 2018
Description Energy Poverty and Social Isolation White Rose Brussels event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This event will examine the role that people's social networks play in their ability to cope with a lack of access to energy services. The event developeds from the research project (in further funding) on energy poverty and social isolation.
Hosted by Theresa Griffin MEP, there will be Panel contributions from Ms Paula Pinho, Head of Unit, DG ENER, Energy Policy Coordination Unit, European Commission, Associate Professor Lucie Middlemiss, University of Leeds on social relations and poverty, Dr Tom Hargreaves, University of East Anglia on the impact of energy poverty on emotions, and Johannes Thema, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy on key indicators for energy poverty.

Evidence from secondary data analysis suggests that people are less willing to look for help if they are stigmatised in doing so and this has an impact on their access to energy services. This has important implications for managing energy poverty: it is possible that 'hard to reach' people are made even harder to reach when they do not have a social support network to identify them as needing help.

While energy poverty is frequently portrayed to be a technical or economic problem, findings from extensive UK-based research show that vulnerability to energy poverty has a critical social dimension

Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/energy-poverty-and-social-isolation-tickets-47813619824