The Warmth & Wellbeing scheme is a joint policy initiative between my Department and the Department of Health and is being delivered under the Government’s Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty and the Healthy Ireland Framework. The main aim of the scheme, which began in 2016 is to validate, in an Irish context, the strong international evidence that making homes warmer, drier and more energy efficient can have on the health and wellbeing of people vulnerable to energy poverty, who are living with chronic respiratory conditions. The scheme is operating in the HSE Community Health Area 7 in Dublin postal areas 8, 10, 12, 22 and 24. €20m was spent between 2016 and 2018 resulting in the upgrading of almost 900 homes.
The process of evaluating the scheme is ongoing and is being overseen by a Steering Group comprised of my Department, the Department of Health, SEAI and HSE. Reports from the HSE have indicated that the upgrades are delivering benefits to the health and wellbeing of participants. Research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will further investigate the outcomes from the scheme. There are two strands to decision making around the future of the Warmth and Wellbeing approach, relating to health and energy. From the health perspective, the above mentioned measurement and evaluation of the data gathered from participants is necessary to validate the effectiveness of energy efficiency improvements in supporting better health outcomes. From the energy perspective key issues are, the development of effective delivery infrastructure by SEAI and the HSE, and on the ground learning about how to scale this up in the context of how we ramp up to meet the level of ambition in the NDP. Based on the outcomes of this research I will be considering the optimal next steps.