Cold and damp housing conditions impact on health and wellbeing. As well as causing or exacerbating serious physical health conditions such as strokes, heart attacks and asthma, they can contribute to other issues such as poor mental health, stress, and social isolation.
People vulnerable to cold-related ill health and living off the gas grid are likely to be most at risk from the cold. Their heating will be more expensive than mains gas and may also cause them other challenges such as only having heating in one room. If they are in rural properties, then there’s also increased likelihood of having solid walls which are much more expensive to insulate than cavity walls.
The Connecting Homes for Health project looked to understand the impact that addressing some of these challenges can have on the health and wellbeing of fuel-poor households. Through the research (funded by Northern Gas Networks), over 100 fuel-poor households (who were vulnerable to cold-related ill health) were provided with free gas grid connections, free first-time gas central heating and free energy efficiency advice (funded by Ofgem via the Warm Home Discount Scheme, with NEA as project manager).
We undertook all householder recruitment, delivered energy advice, managed installations (via YES Energy Solutions), and supported householders through the process. Numerous research activities were carried out both pre- and post-intervention to examine individual benefits and impact on health, wellbeing and subjective fuel poverty, as well as informing wider policy and practice.
A year on and the results demonstrate that this project has been life-changing. It’s brought improved comfort and health, reduced hardship, and alleviated the burden of having to cope with difficult, expensive or non-existent heating and hot water systems. In doing so it’s helped people go from ‘existing’ to ‘living’, giving them the time, space and motivation to rediscover long-lost hobbies, reconnect as families, and look forward to the future.
‘When I used to be cold, I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t want to do anything, I just sort of snuggled up…I can go out [now] and do whatever I want in the house and it’s lovely. My husband said I won’t shut myself away in the winter now’.
‘I just feel I do more, because I’m warm. When I was cold, I just used to sit here and not do a lot, because I’d sit here wrapped in my fleeces…I’ve got a craft room that I wouldn’t work in…But now I can go and sit and work in my craft room because it’s comfortable, it’s warm’.
‘We’ve opened the dining room. We don’t eat on the settee like we used to before because that’s where the fire was. Now we’ve got a dining room table and eat at the table now…it makes so much difference’.
‘The scheme is absolutely brilliant and, if it has helped anyone else, there are going to be a hell of a lot of happy people about’.
‘From the start of the process to the end of installation I could not fault it. I received help every step of the way…You have made my life so much easier not only health wise but financially. Thank you’