In this project, researchers Dr Mary Darking from the School of Applied Social Science and Dr Catherine Will from the Department of Sociology, University of Sussex, conducted research in which they evaluated a multi-partner intervention to address fuel poverty in Brighton and Hove called Warmth for Wellbeing (W4W). This research was funded by the British Gas Energy Trust.
According to Public Health England, 12.3 per cent of households in Brighton and Hove are living in fuel poverty (which is approximately 15,479 households) compared to an average of 8.2 per cent across Kent, Surrey and Sussex. Fuel prices, household income and energy requirements all contribute to people becoming fuel poor, as do the structural characteristics of the buildings people live in and the efficiency of their heating systems. Housing tenure is also a key determinant with private rented housing producing much higher levels of fuel poverty compared to houses that are privately owned.
The amount of energy people need to have a warm, well-lit home, with hot water for everyday use, and the capacity to run appliances, varies from household-to-household. Fuel poverty describes the situation where an individual or household cannot afford to heat their home adequately to maintain a standard of warmth and meet their other energy needs. In this situation people have to make choices about how money is spent, such as deciding whether to ‘eat’ or heat’, wash clothes, use lights or take a shower. Living in a cold home can have negative consequences for health and wellbeing, especially among people with long-term health conditions, disabled people, older people and single parent families (Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report, 2016). Feeling cold can cause certain illnesses but it can also make mental health wellbeing and chronic pain harder to manage, increasing frailty and reducing how much people are able to use their hands and get out and about, through a worsening of joint pain.