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Fuel poverty findings: Switching household energy tariffs

Dr Ava Lorenc, Research Fellow, recently finished a collaborative research project on the important public health issue of fuel poverty to discover the main reasons why vulnerable people are not switching energy tariffs.
17 July 2013

The project aimed to tackle fuel poverty in West London and was run by Kensington & Chelsea Social Council in collaboration with local voluntary sector organisations Age UK Kensington & Chelsea, Nucleus Legal Advice and A Moveable Feast. Volunteer community researchers provided information and support on switching tariffs for a total of 150 vulnerable local residents, including older people, young families and ethnic minority groups, with an average household weekly income of £230, 94% receiving state benefits and 62% in debt. Ava who is in the Allied Health Sciences department at LSBU trained the researchers in action research and assisted them to conduct interviews with the residents before and after the program to evaluate it's impact.

Ava's analysis revealed that less than a third had tried to find a better energy deal; knowledge was the main barrier. After the intervention 19 people tried to switch, 13 did. Young families were most likely to switch, older people least. The main reasons for not switching were apathy ("can't be bothered"), lack of time, fear or scepticism and loyalty. Older people were particularly affected by apathy and scepticism. The personalised advice and help with websites was especially valued. This work is currently under review for publication in the journal 'Public Health' and the full report is available on the Kensington & Chelsea Social Council website