Part 7: Recommendations from 2015/16 Annual Review
Recommendation 1 - This review recommends that a workshop on Warmer Homes Scotland eligibility is held in the near future to further investigate the current criteria to ensure all fuel poor households are able to access Warmer Homes Scotland. This workshop will need to take into account the relevant recommendations of the Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force and the Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group.
A preliminary workshop was held with Warmworks, the Energy Savings Trust and colleagues from the Scottish Government’s Area Based Schemes and Fuel Poverty Policy teams. Some changes to eligibility for Warmer Homes Scotland were identified during this workshop and were implemented to help control demand for the scheme, which has increased significantly since November 2016 leading to increased pressure on the scheme budget. The full impact of these changes, along with any other developments in this area, were not implemented in time to have an effect on the 2016/17 operating year and so would not have an impact on this review. It was agreed that, unless budgetary pressures dictate otherwise, any further changes to eligibility for the scheme should be postponed until work on the new fuel poverty definition is well underway.
Recommendation 2 - This review recommends that further pro-active promotional work is undertaken in a way that will most effectively reach vulnerable and fuel poor households, particularly those groups identified who have not engaged with Warmer Homes Scotland. This should be in line with the Scottish Government’s policies on Above the Line marketing and cold calling activities.
Some Warmer Homes Scotland specific direct mailing activity was undertaken in November 2016 and proved effective in driving up demand. The impact of the success of that marketing led to increased budgetary pressures on the scheme resulting in the requirement for demand management measures being put in place to ensure the continued operation of the scheme within budget levels. Additional funding was sourced from within the Scottish Government budget to increase the annual budget for the 2016/17 operating year to £25 million from the original £19 million.
Recommendation 3 - This review recommends that Scottish Government work with HES and Warmworks to improve the information shared with customers and make case studies available to HES and the public to encourage uptake of Warmer Homes Scotland amongst eligible customers.
Scottish Government provided additional information to HES for the Greener Scotland website that outlined the measures that customers had received under the scheme. In addition, Warmworks is regularly producing case study booklets so that HES can share these with potential customers, community groups and any other interested parties.
In addition Home Energy Scotland has developed a secure, online referral portal to enable seamless referrals from external stakeholders to HES. The portal also allows stakeholders to track progress with the referral to the outcome for the customer. To date 261 organisations are signed up to use the portal.
Recommendation 4 - A further review of the grant levels and loan support should be carried out to determine whether or not they are adequate for a fuel poverty scheme.
A review of loan support was undertaken using additional customer data from the operation of the scheme. This resulted in the maximum Warmer Homes Scotland loan value being increased to £4500 and the maximum term of the loan being increased to 8 years commencing in 2017/18. This will be reviewed again in February 2018 ahead of contractual cost increases for Warmer Homes Scotland that are scheduled for 1 April 2018 under the Warmer Homes Scotland contract.
The grant levels were reviewed as part of the budget management processes and Ministers decided that they should remain at existing levels.
Recommendation 5 - Customers who have cancelled their application due to lack of assistance with enabling measures should be examined again in the 2016/17 Warmer Homes Scotland review to determine the impact of this work.
Pennington Choices was commissioned to consider whether additional enabling measures could be suitable for inclusion in the scheme and to recommend which, if any, should be included in Warmer Homes Scotland. These recommendations will be implemented once agreement has been reached on the specifications and pricing. Once implemented, the effectiveness of these changes should be evaluated in the relevant review of the scheme.
Recommendation 6 - The review recommends that a further investigation is undertaken into why customers do not respond to Warmworks repeated contact attempts.
While a specific piece of work to examine this issue could be carried out, it would be difficult to engage this group of customers as they have already removed themselves from the scheme for unknown reasons.
This is also part of the wider issue of why customers cancel their applications and disengage from the process. A SEEP pilot is being undertaken called Homecare that is being managed by EST and it is anticipated that this pilot will highlight some of the reasons why people drop out of these types of schemes. An evaluation of this pilot will be undertaken and this should be taken into account in the next review of Warmer Homes Scotland.
Recommendation 7 - Carbon and fuel bills savings and the associated impact on energy demand & carbon emission reduction should be a key focus of the 2016/17 Warmer Homes Scotland review.
A full dataset for 2016/17 is available, has been analysed and the findings can be found in Part 2 of this review.
Recommendation 8 - A further investigation is required to determine why some measures specified by the scheme have not been offered to customers.
As part of this review, a workshop was undertaken with a sample of Warmworks surveyors to gain a better understanding of why some measures had not been recommended. The findings from this workshop can be found in Part 4 of this review. Some of the measures are thought to be inappropriate and others would require the customer to pay a significant contribution if recommended. Overall surveyors recommend an affordable package of measures that provides the greatest benefits to the householder where possible.
Recommendation 9 - The levels of remedial work should be examined in the 2016/17 review to compare with 2015/16 levels.
Part 4 (ii) of this review provides an examination of the levels of remedial works based on the outcome of the QA audit process in 2016/17.
Recommendation 10 - The national and local partnerships developed by Warmworks and their associated value to the Warmer Homes Scotland scheme should be considered a key part of the 2016/17 review of the scheme.
An examination of the partnership working that Warmworks has undertaken in 2016/17 in delivering the Warmer Homes Scotland contract can be found at Part 5 of this review.
Recommendation 11 - Community Benefits reporting should be a key focus of the 2016/17 review of Warmer Homes Scotland.
A full data set for the Employment and Skills Plan has been received and has been evaluated at Part 6 of this review. Work continues on the wider aspects of the Community Benefits to be delivered through the Warmer Homes Scotland contact and the audit process. The outcomes of this work will be evaluated more closely in the 2017/18 annual review.