€10 million expansion to make Dublin homes warmer for COPD

Minister Denis Naughten announces €10 million expansion to make Dublin homes warmer

 Pilot Scheme extended to include Dublin 8, 10, 12, 22 and 24

 Minister Denis Naughten and Minister Katherine Zappone visited the home of Mrs. Laura Ball in Firhouse, Dublin 24 who received an energy efficiency upgrade free of charge to her home under the Warmth & Wellbeing scheme. The pilot scheme, launched earlier this year provides extensive energy efficiency upgrades free of charge to the homes of people over the age of 55 in Dublin 12 and 24 who are in energy poverty and living with respiratory conditions. Minister Naughten is announcing today that from next year the Scheme will be expanded to include families with young children and three additional areas of Dublin will also be included under the pilot Scheme. These areas are Dublin 8, 10 and 22.

Expansion of the Scheme

Minister Naughten secured a significant increase in Budget 2017 of €10 million to expand the Scheme in 2017. Given the average spend to date it is anticipated that this will provide for the upgrade of between 700-800 homes next year. With the increased funds families and older people living in Dublin 8, 10 & 22 can now avail of the Scheme in addition to those in Dublin 12 and 24. These additional areas were selected, on the basis of HSE advice, as they reside within the same hospital catchment areas (Tallaght & St James) as the scheme currently operates, contain a high level of social deprivation and can be covered by the existing HSE team.

The scheme has also been expanded to families with young children in the same geographical area. This has the added bonus of determining the role that having a warmer home can play in boosting social inclusion and even school performance.

Ireland has some of the highest rates of respiratory illness in the world. In Ireland, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) affects over 110,000 people and is responsible for 10% of all hospital admissions and almost a quarter of all deaths. It is also estimated that more than 470,000 people in Ireland suffer from asthma. This results in an extra 20,000 A&E hospital visits, leading to 15,000 bed nights being taken up by asthma sufferers in our hospitals each year.

Damp homes and air quality are universally regarded as key contributing factors to both conditions. By retrofitting homes, the Warmth & Wellbeing scheme aims to improve the internal air temperature and air quality in the homes of people suffering from these conditions. This should ease the symptoms of people with respiratory conditions and potentially reduce their need to access health services.

Minister Naughten said: “As this scheme will demonstrate, upgrading energy efficiency makes our homes warmer, more comfortable and leads to less reliance on medication and health services. It also displaces expensive imported fossil fuels with creating local jobs in the construction industry.”

 Minister Zappone said: “Children with asthma miss an average of 10 school days each year which can have serious repercussions for their education and social inclusion. By improving the quality of their homes we can avoid some of these missed days and help every child to participate in education and society regardless of their health status.”

The Warmth & Wellbeing scheme is being delivered by a dedicated HSE team who will guide people through the application process. The HSE team work with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) who will perform a needs-based assessment of what upgrades each home needs, then commission those upgrades.  As a means-tested scheme, it is available free of charge to households in receipt of the Fuel Allowance or One-Parent Family payment.

Notes for Editors

The Warmth and Wellbeing scheme is a pilot initiative being delivered under the Government’s Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty and the Healthy Ireland Framework. It is intended to demonstrate the positive effects that energy efficiency improvements to the home can have on the health and wellbeing of people in energy poverty.

The scheme has been running on a pilot basis in Dublin 12 and 24. Dublin 8, 10 and 22 have now been added to the Scheme.  It is available free of charge to people who are in receipt of the Fuel Allowance or, as of today, the One-Parent Family Payment.

The scheme is funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment as part of the Government’s Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty and is being delivered by the SEAI and the HSE in collaboration with the Department of Health and the Healthy Ireland initiative.

Research has shown that living in a cold or damp home increases the risk of respiratory conditions and can exacerbate existing conditions. Upgrading the energy efficiency of the homes of people with these conditions can improve the residents’ health and comfort, reduce their energy bills, and relieve pressure on the health services.

COPD is the 3rd highest cause of death, and the most common cause of emergency hospital admissions among adults in Ireland. These high numbers of emergency admissions place huge pressure on the health system and can result in overcrowding of hospitals, especially during the Winter months. COPD can be cause by living or working for many years in an environment where there is exposure to smoke, dust or other fumes. Moving away from solid fuel and open fires is therefore a very important measure when trying to live with and manage COPD.

One in five children in Ireland suffer from asthma. Asthma can start at any age, although about half of all people with asthma have had their first symptoms by the age of 10, and many children with asthma have had their first asthma attack before the age of 6.

An independent research project has been commissioned (on 18/11/16) to assess the evidence from the scheme. It is envisaged that this research project will examine, among other matters, the changes in hospitalisation rates, mortality, mental health and stress levels experienced by participants. It will attempt to quantify these changes and assess them against the cost of delivering the energy efficiency measures. It will inform decisions about further expansion of the scheme.

 How much
The scheme has funding of at least €20m which will provide for a 3 year pilot running from 2016-2018. It is anticipated that this will allow more than 1,000 homes to have energy efficiency improvements carried out.

 How can people apply for the Warmth and Wellbeing scheme

Applications for this scheme will be via referral by local healthcare professionals only. HSE staff will identify potential candidates and screen them based on the eligibility criteria.

Energy poverty

Energy poverty is defined as an inability to heat or power a home to an adequate degree. This is usually a function of three factors:

  • A person’s income
  • The cost of energy, and

The energy efficiency of the home.

It is currently quantified in Ireland using what is known as the ‘expenditure method,’ whereby a household that spends more than 10% of their income on energy is considered to be in energy poverty.

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways – the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. The airways become over-sensitive, which means that they react to things that would normally not cause a problem, such as cold air or dust.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a disease that makes it hard to empty air out of your lungs. This is because the airways get smaller leading to airflow obstruction. This can result in shortness of breath or tiredness because you are working harder to breathe. COPD is a term used to include chronic bronchitis, emphysema or a combination of both conditions.

For applicants who do not meet the eligibility criteria for this scheme, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland offers free energy efficiency upgrades to those in energy poverty under the Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme: http://www.seai.ie/Grants/Warmer_Homes_Scheme/