William Boohan, Home Energy - Policy Advisor at Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), explains why it has introduced a toolkit to help evaluate fuel poverty and health type schemes.

Working in the area of fuel poverty at the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), we’ve instinctively known for a long time that living in a cold home can have a negative effect on a person’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.  

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been looking at these links more closely and, as part of this, we’ve actively engaged with local organisations who are doing some really interesting and innovative work targeting heating and energy efficiency measures and advice at those who are most vulnerable to the effects of living in a cold home. This is being done in different ways and on varying scales across the country - usually by local authorities (bringing together their Housing, Social Care and Public Health Departments), but also by other local players.

One of the things we were told by local schemes is that very little of this work is being robustly evaluated, either the delivery of the schemes or the health outcomes of those who have been helped. Partly this is a lack of expertise and partly it’s a resource issue: a pound spent on evaluation is a pound less spent on assistance for the most in need.

We heard from schemes that what was needed was a central, free-to-use resource, which would facilitate robust evaluation. So DECC, in conjunction with the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) and overseen by a range of experts, including from the Department for Health and Public Health England, has spent the last 9 months or so developing such a toolkit.

The Affordable Warmth and Health Impact Evaluation Toolkit is flexible so that it can be used by a wide range of schemes and is structured so that results from different schemes are broadly comparable. Feedback from local schemes in the Bristol area, where it was tested, have been reassuringly positive.

We are confident this will allow local schemes to demonstrate that what they do is having a real, positive, beneficial effect on people’s health and, by extension, is freeing up local health service and social care resource.