Better Housing, Better Health improves health and wellbeing for hundreds of residents

Author: 08/05/2017

Better Housing, Better Health, our scheme for providing advice and energy efficiency measures for people whose health might be impacted by living in a cold or damp home, has now come to an end with some very successful results.

Cold homes cost the NHS in England £1.36 billion every year in hospital and primary care, and the link between cold homes and ill health is receiving increasing attention. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published guidelines on Excess Winter Deaths and illness, and the health risks associated with cold homes in March 2015, which included recommendations on how health and social care professionals can identify and help vulnerable people whose health is at risk from living in a cold home.

Better Housing, Better Health aimed to contribute towards the local implementation of the NICE guidelines by developing a single-point-of-contact health and housing referral service.

The service was provided in partnership with 11 local authorities across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire and the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, with funding from the British Gas Energy Trust.

Better Housing, Better Health offered:

  • Free surveys to identify potential risks to health.
  • Grants of up to £2,500 for energy efficiency measures.
  • Benefits checks, fuel debt mediation and assistance with switching energy tariff or supplier from two dedicated Citizens Advice caseworkers.

Better Housing, Better Health results

Overall, 155 residents were referred into the scheme by a health or social care professional with 107 receiving grant funding for energy efficiency improvements to their homes. The project delivered 118 local authority home visits, 216 energy efficiency or damp alleviating measures and made use of 77 different local installers.

500 residents were also supported with benefits assessments, assistance with switching energy tariff and fuel debt mediation. In some cases this support was truly life changing, with residents assisted to gain additional benefits income of up to £16,000 per year which they were not aware that they were entitled to previously. In total, £469,039 has been confirmed in additional benefits income, with a further £529,869 expected to be confirmed over the next few months.

Additional benefit income, along with potential savings on energy bills, will hopefully mean that residents will no longer be posed with the ‘heat or eat’ scenario that many fuel poor households face today.

As a result of support from Better Housing, Better Health, 71% have reported an improvement in at least one health or wellbeing measure three months after measures were installed, and 69% reported a reduction in use of at least one local health service. It is expected that the home improvements made could save the NHS around £108,000 per year, with a wider saving to society of around £270,000 per year, showing how projects such as Better Housing, Better Health could play an important role in reducing pressures on the NHS and helping vulnerable people to stay warm and well.

Alongside benefits to local health services, 94% of residents were happy or very happy with their completed installation, with many beneficiaries already noticing the difference that the project will make to their life. One resident commented that they previously had to sit wrapped in a blanket to stay warm, but the installation of more efficient and reliable heating has provided reassurance that they will be warm and comfortable during the winter period. Others have highlighted mental health benefits, with one resident saying that the support they have received had “given me back my hope”, and another commented “I feel happier in myself and able to walk further and enjoy life more”.

Initial funding from the British Gas Energy Trust has now come to an end and we cannot continue to offer this vital service without additional funding. If you can help or are interested in working together to tackle the health impacts of cold homes and fuel poverty, please contact me (details above).

Better Housing, Better Health video

For more information about the project’s results, check out this video: