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Publication - Research Finding

Warmer Homes Scotland - first annual review

Published: 3 Nov 2016
Part of:
Housing
ISBN:
9781786525789

Annual review of our Warmer Homes Scotland scheme, looking at delivery from September 2015 to March 2016.

92 page PDF

3.0MB

92 page PDF

3.0MB

Contents
Warmer Homes Scotland - first annual review
Objective 1 - Fuel poverty

92 page PDF

3.0MB

Objective 1 - Fuel poverty

The primary objective of the Warmer Homes Scotland scheme is to tackle fuel poverty. It is therefore important to ensure that it is accessible to those households living in or most at risk of fuel poverty and it should do so in three main ways:

i. Eligibility

ii. Awareness

iii. Attractiveness

For the purposes of this review, we have sought to answer the following questions to ensure that Warmer Homes Scotland is helping fuel poor households and is therefore meeting this objective.

  • Who have been our customers so far and were they in fuel poverty?
  • Are there people in fuel poverty who cannot access the scheme due to the eligibility criteria?
  • How can we reach more people?

i. Eligibility

In line with the fuel poverty definition, WHS aims to reach those households who have a low or fixed income and higher than average fuel bills. Those households are identified via proxies including a threshold on the energy rating of the property ( SAP 55 during the period of the review) and receipt of certain qualifying benefits. Eligible households are also in the private housing sector and have lived at their current address for at least six months. The full eligibility criteria are published on the Greener Scotland website [2] .

The criteria were based on that of the previous Energy Assistance Scheme to ensure a large enough eligible group, but refined slightly in line with changes to the income thresholds for benefit qualification at a UK level and for easier administration by Home Energy Scotland.

The criteria for WHS were agreed by a sub-group of the Fuel Poverty Forum and relevant Scottish Government policy teams in March 2015. It was therefore assumed that any household meeting the WHS criteria would fall within the definition of fuel poverty and should be eligible for Scottish Government support.

This review set out to examine two main aspects of the eligibility criteria:

a. To ensure that it does identify fuel poor households; and

b. To determine whether or not other households who could be considered fuel poor do not meet the criteria.

Figure 3 shows the customers who received a measure from Warmer Homes Scotland broken down by primary benefit receipt. What this shows is that for the majority of customers, Disability Living Allowance ( DLA) is the benefit that qualifies them for support. Figure 4 shows the same group of customers broken down by age.

The analysis of the data would therefore suggest that WHS is supporting vulnerable households who are likely to be at risk of fuel poverty given their age or that they have young children or a disability. However, as DLA is not a means tested benefit, it cannot be concluded that WHS supports low income households in all cases. It should be noted though that only the primary qualifying benefit is recorded by both Home Energy Scotland and Warmworks. Customers in receipt of DLA may also be in receipt of other, income-related benefits.

In terms of fuel poor households who do not qualify for WHS, Table 2 shows that in the period of this review, 536 customers were cancelled post-referral because they did not meet the eligibility criteria. The majority of these were due to the SAP 55 threshold and this has already been considered and raised to 65. There were also 72 customers cancelled because there were no suitable measures for their property and this is examined in more detail in the Technical Review.

For the remaining 107 customers, a further investigation would be required to determine whether or not they could be considered fuel poor in line with the definition and therefore whether the criteria should be widened to take account of these circumstances.

Figure 3: Primary benefits of WHS customers

Figure 3: Primary benefits of WHS customers

Table 1: Extract from the scoping document

Area Target Review Analysis
Fuel Poverty Identifying fuel poor households as likely based on pre-established eligibility criteria Numbers breakdown per type of eligibility Cross-refereincing invoice and EST data to determine the percentages of customers and the benefits they are on
Profiling based on given data Charts determining the customer age group and the benefits they are likely to be on
Fuel poor people outside eligibility criteria (other benefits, working poor, fuel poor families, etc.) Cancelled customers reasons (solstice document) and discussions with HES
Fuel poor within eligibility criteria who drop out of the shceme (reasons)
Acting mostly in areas in fuel poverty Scotland wide distribution Scotland fuel poverty maps compared with Warmworks measures distribution
Reaching the fuel poor through marketing efforts Marketing campaign response/results/impact A graph showing call trends and HES advisors on why people call
Climate Change Customers on oil (numbers across Scotland total, divided per regions) Number of customers who switched Analysis of customers who switched vs those who could have but didn't
Number who could have switched but didn't
Improve carbon emission numbers Carbon emission review What is in the contract + future reporting structure
Housing Stock People with a SAP under 55 are more likely to be in fuel poverty Number of people outside SAP threshold but still in fuel poverty based on income, house condition, bills, benefits, etc. Cancellation reasons EST or WW
Number of cancellations due to SAP ESP data analysis
Value for Money Quality of installations will be improved due to higher standards put in place Quality standards trends (how difficult was it for companies to adapt Fieldwork
New delivery structure through WW - fieldwork
Using WW delivery model National partnerships WW partnerships - added value
Using the existing network of HES will be easier for people to access the scheme through a one stop shop HES advisers on people calling
The scheme will complement other existing schemes Islands Pilot
HEEPS Loans
SEEP
REEPS
Community Benefits Helping people in fuel poverty People in fuel poverty - through future projects Future projects as stated in the community strategy
Creating jobs ESP to date ESP to date in march
Living wage - declaration from all subcontractors
Adding value to the community (using local contractors) Subcontractor views
Warmworks delivery model ( SME)

Table 2: Breakdown of reasons customers did not qualify post-referral

Reason No.
Applicant Less than 6 months at property 12
Applicant Not of Eligible Age and No Eligible Children 1
Applicant Not on Benefits 62
Applicant Proofs Missing 9
Property Housing Association / (Council Tenant) 8
SAP - Too high 357
SAP Qualifies but no suitable measures 72
Unknown 15
Total 536

Figure 4: Age profile of Warmer Homes Scotland customers

Figure 4: Age profile of Warmer Homes Scotland customers

These cancellation numbers are also reflected in the feedback received from Home Energy Scotland advisers who suggested a number of amendments to widen the eligibility criteria and include more customers as follows:

  • Include those 60 and over who are not in receipt of benefits;
  • Consider very elderly households with very low SAP but not in receipt of benefits;
  • Include uncommon or "outdated" benefits such as Reduced Earnings Allowance or Contribution Based JSA
  • Remove the requirement for those aged 60 to 64 to have broken or no heating;
  • Include Attendance Allowance as a qualifying benefit;
  • Consider including those under 60 with broken or no heating;
  • Change the 6 month rule - which requires for customers to have lived in the property for at least 6 months prior to referral
  • Include any kind of pension credit, not just the guarantee element; and
  • Consider including the single person discount for Council Tax as an eligibility criteria.

The views of the supply chain members interviewed were that the volume of customers was low and this may be attributable to eligibility criteria that are too narrow. Although it should be noted that the total number of referrals to Warmworks in the period of the review was in line with the range outlined in the Invitation to Tender, albeit at the lower end.

Taken together, the analyses carried out for this review suggest that whilst the current eligibility criteria appear to capture households at risk of fuel poverty, they may not strictly adhere to the definition of fuel poverty that specifically refers to income. Furthermore, there may be households living in fuel poverty who currently do not qualify for WHS and their inclusion may increase the number of households able to access support.

It is also accepted that households in remote and rural areas that are off the gas grid have higher fuel costs than those on the gas grid and/or in urban areas and are consequently more likely to be in fuel poverty. It would therefore be expected that take up of WHS would be greater in off gas areas. Figure 5 shows a map of WHS installations in the period of the review whilst alongside, Figure 6 shows maps of postcodes with a gas supply, the 6-fold urban/rural classification, and levels of fuel poverty.

Recommendation 1 - This review recommends that a workshop on WHS eligibility is held in the near future to further investigate the current criteria to ensure all fuel poor households are able to access WHS.

Figure 5: Warmworks installations map

Figure 5: Warmworks installations map

At first glance, it appears that WHS take up is greater in on gas areas. However, Table 3 suggests that when the current eligible group is considered as a proportion of the total population, take up in off gas areas has been significantly higher [3] . Given the above recommendation though, this would need to be reconsidered in light of any changes made to the eligible group.

Figure 6: Maps of postcodes with a gas supply, the 6-fold urban/rural classification, and levels of fuel poverty

Figure 6: Maps of postcodes with a gas supply, the 6-fold urban/rural classification, and levels of fuel poverty

Any consideration of eligibility will need to take into account the reports and recommendations from the Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force and the Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group. Both are due to report by the end of October.

ii. Awareness

One of the key issues that might prevent WHS from meeting its objectives is that fuel poor households may simply be unaware that it exists.

If they are unaware that support exists, they may be less likely to contact Home Energy Scotland to take up WHS support.

This review therefore sought to determine whether or not customer awareness had impacted on WHS uptake during the first seven months of operation.

During the mobilisation period, Scottish Government did not undertake any marketing activity on the Greener Scotland portfolio as the previous national fuel poverty scheme had closed to new referrals on 31 March 2015. Home Energy Scotland continued to take calls from customers at this time and recorded details of anyone who may potentially be eligible for WHS. This meant that when the scheme launched on 1 September 2015, there was a small pool of pre-screened customers who were very quickly able to be referred.

The official launch of WHS by the First Minister on 14 September 2015 also generated some interest although it is difficult to separate this from the launch of the Greener Scotland marketing campaign on the same day. However, Figure 7 shows a subsequent track of calls to Home Energy Scotland from 14 September 2015 to 31 March 2016 against referrals to WHS.

Figure 7 shows that calls to HES increased from September to late November, dropped sharply over the Christmas period (as would be expected) but did not return to pre-Christmas levels despite a further marketing campaign in January.

Figure 7: Calls to HES vs. referrals

Figure 7: Calls to HES vs. referrals

Table 3: WHS eligible group as a proportion of the population

Scottish Government 6-fold Urban-Rural classification Number of households that received measures Households that received measures
per 1000 dwellings
Large >=125,000 people 403 0.46
Urban Areas
Other 10,000-124,999 people 472 0.56
Urban Areas
Accessible 3,000-9,999 people, and accessible 138 0.64
Small Towns
Remote 3,000-9,999 people, and remote 62 0.73
Small Towns
Accessible <3,000 people, and accessible 187 0.66
Rural Areas
Remote <3,000 people, and remote 110 0.69
Rural Areas
TOTAL 1,372

Over the same period, referrals to WHS did not begin to rise until November 2015, remained steady, then increased slightly again in January. This data therefore does not show a strong correlation between Scottish Government marketing activity and referrals to WHS.

As part of the survey undertaken with HES advisers, they were asked what they believe drives people to contact Home Energy Scotland and also whether or not customers calling HES were specifically asking about Warmworks and Warmer Homes Scotland. The results are shown in Figures 8 and 9.

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 WHS. This should be in line with the Scottish Government's policies on Above the Line marketing and cold calling activities.

Figure 8: Reasons people contact HES according to advisers

Figure 8: Reasons people contact HES according to advisers

Figure 9: HES customers asking for WHS

Figure 9: HES customers asking for WHS

These responses also mirror comments made by the supply chain. Of the six who were interviewed, four noted that their customers generally did not know who Warmworks are or confused WHS with other schemes such as the Green Deal.

Considering the breakdown of benefit receipt and age of Warmer Homes Scotland customers, it appears that those in receipt of Carer's Allowance, Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, War Disablement Pension and Armed Forces Independence Payment have the lowest uptake of the scheme. This is also true for those under the age of 30 (see Figure 4).

This evidence suggests that there is a lack of awareness amongst some fuel poor households of the existence of WHS and Warmworks and that this may be negatively impacting take up of the scheme.

iii. Attractiveness

The third element of accessibility of WHS is attractiveness and this can be further broken down into two strands:

a. Encouraging a customer to take up a referral to Warmworks; and

b. Ensuring that once referred, they want to remain in the process

Once a customer has contacted HES, gone through the initial screening process and is deemed to be eligible for WHS, they can be referred to Warmworks and have a survey booked. Whilst most customers are happy to be referred, HES advisers reported that there are some customers who choose for a variety of reasons not to be referred. Figure 10 details the reasons given to HES advisers and also the frequency with which these reasons were reported out of 52 responses to this question.

The HES advisers were also asked if they thought Warmer Homes Scotland was a positive intervention and if it had achieved its aim of being customer focussed. Of the 52 responses to this question, 98% think that WHS is a positive intervention and 81% think that it is customer focussed.

These figures suggest that HES advisers want to refer customers to WHS when they can and that with the right information and assistance may be able to encourage more customers to take up the support that is on offer.

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 WHS amongst eligible customers.

Once a customer has been referred, Warmworks take over the management of the end-to-end customer journey (see Figure 11).

During the period of the review, Warmworks reported that a total of 894 customers cancelled their application. As shown by Table 4, the majority of these customers cancelled because of the measures they were offered and this is considered in more detail in the Technical Review.

Table 4: Reasons customers cancelled their WHS application

Cancellation reason No.
Contribution 37
Customer moving house 20
Customer not able to proceed at that time 72
Upheaval/preparation works required 130
Customer deceased 12
Customer illness 35
No longer interested (fuel /measure choice) 151
Customer outwith timescales 67
Private install 41
Asbestos 6
Duplication 65
Health & Safety 7
Landlord refused or did not respond 24
No access (survey) 16
Unable to contact 133
Unknown 78
Total 894

The Technical Review, which includes data from September 2015 to June 2016, provides a breakdown per measure of the reasons customers cancelled their application. It outlines that for many customers, the perceived upheaval of an installation and the choice of measure they were offered are the primary causes of cancellation. The Technical Review also shows that the regions with the highest rates of cancellations per installation were Highland and Islands. We are therefore considering additional measures that could be offered by the scheme that will address these issues.

Whilst customer contributions were a cause of relatively few cancellations (4% in Table 4 and 5.7% in the Technical Review) these customers did qualify and were deemed to be living in or at risk of fuel poverty but were unable to proceed.

Figure 10: Reasons people choose not to be referred

Figure 10: Reasons people choose not to be referred

There should therefore be a further investigation to determine whether or not the grant levels and loan support that are offered are adequate for the scheme

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.

Beyond that, most customer cancellations were due to a lack of enabling support such as loft clearance and customers not responding to Warmworks contact attempts.

Figure 11: Warmworks customer journey

Figure 11: Warmworks customer journey

Warmworks have already taken steps to address the upheaval to customers by engaging with a number of organisations that offer enabling support to WHS customers including Scottish and Southern Energy and other local community organisations. Customers cancellations in this category should therefore be examined again in the 2016/17 WHS review to determine the impact of this work.

A review of the Referral to Completion ( RTC) contractual KPI has also been undertaken and a number of additional categories for allowed Pause Periods have been agreed which is intended to reduce the number of customers cancelled because they are outwith the RTC timescale. This is taking place on a trial basis to assess impact; this will then be reviewed and adopted if successful.

Recommendation 5 - Customers who have cancelled their application due to lack of enabling measures should be examined again in the 2016/17 WHS review to determine the impact of the work.

In terms of the contact attempts, Warmworks is required to attempt customer contact three times at different times of the day and using different contact methods before an application can be cancelled. This is audited on a monthly basis by Pennington Choices who have confirmed that this process is being followed. With no further information, it is difficult to speculate why customers have not responded or to make any useful recommendations on how to overcome this issue.

Recommendation 6 - The review recommends that a further investigation is undertaken into why customers do not respond to Warmworks repeated contact attempts.

Those customers who remain in the process are receiving a very high level of customer service as shown by Table 5 which shows Warmworks' customer satisfaction scores against volume of survey returns over the period of the review. This is backed up by anecdotal evidence from Pennington Choices and by the low volume of complaints escalated to Scottish Government over the period (four in total, none upheld).

The evidence presented suggests that Warmer Homes Scotland is an attractive option for fuel poor customers but that more should be done to ensure eligible customers take up the offer of support.

Table 5: Customer satisfaction scores

Month Score Volume
October 2015 100% 95%
November 2015 100% 24%
December 2015 100% 85%
January 2016 99% 69%
February 2016 100% 68%
March 2016 100% 71%

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