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Home is where the hearth is: Grant recipients' views of England's Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (Warm Front)

Description

This paper reports the results of research carried out as part of the national health impact evaluation of the Warm Front Scheme, a government initiative aimed at alleviating fuel poverty in England. Semi-structured interviews were carried out in a purposive sample of 49 households which received home energy improvements under the Scheme from five urban areas (Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton). Each household had received installation, replacement or refurbishment of the heating system and, in some cases, also insulation of the cavity wall or loft or both, and draught-proofing measures. Most householders reported improved and more controllable warmth and hot water. Many also reported perceptions of improved physical health and comfort, especially of mental health and emotional well-being and, in several cases, the easing of symptoms of chronic illness. There were reports of improved family relations, an expansion of the domestic space used during cold months, greater use of kitchens and improved nutrition, increased privacy, improved social interaction, and an increase in comfort and atmosphere within the home. Greater warmth and comfort also enhanced emotional security, and recipients were more content and at ease in their homes. However there was little evidence of substantially lower heating bills. These results provide evidence that Warm Front home energy improvements are accompanied by appreciable benefits in terms of use of living space, comfort and quality of life, physical and mental well-being, although there is only limited evidence of change in health behaviour.