Research details pros and cons of face-to-face fuel poverty advice schemes
A new report has found that face-to-face advice schemes for Scots who are in fuel poverty are a necessary service for certain consumers but that improved monitoring and evaluation of projects is needed.
Based on research carried out by Changeworks on behalf of Citizens Advice Scotland’s Consumer Futures Unit (CFU), Facing Fuel Poverty explored what projects and services delivering face-to-face fuel poverty advice exist in Scotland and examined the benefits and costs of delivering such services.
There are estimated to be 158 projects delivering in-home fuel poverty advice in Scotland.
The research reported that face-to-face fuel poverty advice was of particular benefit for some consumers who are hard of hearing, unable to leave their home, vulnerable, experiencing mental health problems or who don’t have English as a first language.
However, organisations outlined that securing funding was one of the key challenges to delivering such advice and issues also arose regarding the consistency of monitoring and evaluation of projects.
According to the report, consideration should be given by the Scottish Government to continue to invest, and look to invest further, in face-to-face fuel poverty advice services as a necessary service to support certain vulnerable households.
Organisations that fund fuel poverty advice projects were recommended to require that projects to carry out a minimum level of evaluation and to look to award multi-year funding to increase the efficiency of projects and services.
It was further recommended that organisations delivering fuel poverty advice start thinking about monitoring and evaluation of projects before delivery commences and create a suitable monitoring plan and also share best practice with other delivery organisations.
The report concluded: “Although this project has highlighted the value of this service provision, questions remain unanswered regarding both the costs of delivering such a service and what the quantifiable outcomes for consumers are on a nationwide scale.
“Research completed within this project has reinforced the CFU’s initial views that no industry wide benchmark data for face-to-face fuel poverty advice exist. Whilst this research aimed to provide benchmarks for service delivery in Scotland, in respect to both costs and quantifiable outcomes, it has become clear that large uncertainties remain. Difficulty in benchmarking was due to challenges in obtaining data from projects, variation in project activities and delivery and due to variations in calculation methods.”
It added: “In relation to delivery costs, this uncertainty is largely due to organisations not being able to or choosing not to provide data. Data on costs was only received from one third of the 158 projects and showed a wide variation. While limited quantifiable data was available on project costs, it was apparent from interviews that costs are higher for projects in rural areas, where there is a greater requirement for travel, and less where volunteers are involved in the delivery of advice.
“More research is needed to refine the reasoning behind the variation in project costs, which could be provided by more detailed costs from a larger number of organisations.”