The Warmth and Wellbeing pilot scheme aims to objectively measure and validate the health and wellbeing impacts of improving the living conditions of vulnerable people living in energy poverty with chronic respiratory conditions. The scheme is a collaboration between my Department and the Department of Health and is jointly administered by the Health Service Executive and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. Since 2016 over 1,200 homes have received free upgrades to their homes, including attic and wall insulation, window and door replacement and heating system upgrades where needed. According to SEAI, the average cost per home completed to date is €22,800. This investment has significantly improved the warmth and comfort of the homes. Initial reports have indicated that the upgrades are also delivering benefits to the health and wellbeing of participants, including reports of needing fewer GP and hospital visits. An independent analysis is being carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), in collaboration with the Health Service Executive.
Earlier this year, in line with public health and Government guidelines in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, all works under SEAI funded schemes were advised to pause for a period of time. The priority at all times was to minimise the risks for the homeowners and property occupants, contractors, their employees and the wider community. SEAI also advised contractors that any works that were incomplete should either be completed or postponed where possible and to ensure that the properties were left in a safe and habitable state before postponement.
It should be noted that this scheme is only available to households where a member of the household aged either 55 and over or 12 and under has a diagnosed chronic respiratory condition, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Further, the scheme is only available in specific Dublin areas. SEAI has confirmed that works remain postponed on all of these homes as the occupants are extremely likely to be in the ‘very high risk’ group, as defined by the HSE. This is due to the intrusive nature of the works on the schemes, with multiple crew members in homes working in close proximity and often over long periods.
SEAI is mindful of the concerns that homeowners have with winter approaching and this is taken into account in its decision making as to how soon the scheme can restart. However, this must be balanced with the continuing risks of COVID-19 for applicants, contractors and the wider community. SEAI is considering a number of options that would allow work to recommence, and their associated risks. SEAI expects to complete this review by the end of this month. The recently published 'Plan for Living with Covid-19' will be fully taken into account in these deliberations.