Utility Week

Utility Week 18th October 2013

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Page 26 of 31

Customers Market view Reaching the hard to reach The Foundations Warm Homes Service offers a successful model to follow for energy suppliers delivering the Affordable Warmth elements of Eco. Paul Woolley explains. A glance over recent headlines is all it takes to remind us that winter will once again bring with it familiar concerns: "Energy bills set to soar", "Fears over winter deaths", and the like. Rewind 12 months and Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT) was preparing to embark on a four-month programme designed to help older and vulnerable people by tackling cold homes. It is fair to say that many of those reached by the FILT Warm Homes Service (FWHS) are likely to be looking forward to this winter with less trepidation than might otherwise have been the case. The scheme's success and the factors behind it could have major implications for energy companies' efforts to help the fuel poor through the Energy Company Obligation (Eco), in particular the £350 million Affordable Warmth element aimed at low income and vulnerable households. An evaluation of FWHS by Sheffield Hallam University, published next month, shows the approach of using a central hub combined with a well-established, skilled and trusted local delivery infrastructure was the backbone of its effectiveness. Given the challenges we now face in helping energy companies discharge their Eco obligations, it could offer the conduit firms require to ensure help gets to where it is needed most. Co-ordinated by FILT and delivered by more than 50 member organisations in the shape of home improvement agencies, FWHS was run using £500,000 of funding from the Department of Health. It reached more than 6,000 people, many of whom had long-term conditions such as arthritis, asthma and heart disease. More than a quarter were suffering from declining health directly as a result of cold homes. Overall, the scheme saw more than 1,200 jobs completed, from boiler repairs to draught proofing, with three-quarters carried out within a month of initial contact. It also enabled 400 staff to receive specialist training from National Energy Action on how best to advise vulnerable people to avoid fuel poverty. But to fully appreciate the impact Most significant reported impacts of the FWHS programme Prevented excess winter deaths Feeling warmer Improved general well-being Reduced fuel poverty Reduced exacerbation of long-term conditions Reduced hospital admissions 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% of the programme you have to consider the added value it delivered. Every year staff from home improvement agencies (sometimes known as care and repair teams) carry out in excess of 200,000 home visits to vulnerable people living in private properties. Over time they have developed a "single point of contact" approach that enables them to assess clients' needs beyond areas like energy efficiency, identify any other issues and ensure they receive the relevant support. From a resident's point of view, it means they receive information and guidance from a single, trusted source – someone they have built up a relationship with over time, rather than being bombarded by a multitude of different agencies. In the case of FWHS, it led to 41 per cent of clients being referred to health providers and 40 per cent to advice agencies such as Citizens Advice. This holistic approach enables people to live independently for longer, takes pressure off the NHS and other services and in doing so is cost effective (see box, Cost comparisons). In the context of Eco Affordable Warmth, FILT and England's network of home improvement agencies offer energy companies a tailor-made route to target those on benefits who live in private sector housing. We are talking about households that are traditionally difficult to reach, particularly those in poor health who are often most in need of support. The FWHS initiative offers a snapshot of what is possible, demonstrating an ability to deliver results on the ground combined with the necessary reach – both geographically and in terms of identifying and supporting the most vulnerable. Some 55 home improvement agencies deliver the scheme across almost half of all local authority areas in England. Given the fact that there are around 200 organisations in the network and that 85 per cent of residents have access to a home improvement agency, the potential scale of intervention is immense. Paul Woolley is development manager at Foundations Independent Living Trust Cost comparisons Cost of 12 minutes of Cost of home careCost of FILT Warm Homes Service GP consultation at worker: £22 per hour (FWHS) in-home visit, cold homes surgery: £32 advice and information, holistic assessment: £40 Cost of one night stay Cost of local authorityCost of FWHS cold homes in NHS hospital: £549 equipment and adaptations repair/work done: £196 (additional heating): £429 Cost of treating Community care Cost per beneficiary of FWHS: £83 respiratory condition package for older (first year of people: median treatment): £519 cost: £445 per week Source: FILT Warm Homes Service evaluation, Sheffield Hallam University UTILITY WEEK | 18th - 24th October 2013 | 27

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