This policy briefing explore some of the key gaps in knowledge regarding justice in energy efficiency policy in the UK

Despite disabled people and low-income families with children being defined in policy as vulnerable to fuel poverty, there is very little evidence about how the needs of these groups are recognised or incorporated into policy decisions. There is also no clear evidence on how energy efficiency policies actually affect these groups, and whether policy outcomes are consistent across the UK.

This policy briefing authored by University of York’s Department of Social Policy and Social Work (SPSW) and ACE Research, explores some of the key gaps in knowledge regarding justice in energy efficiency policy in the UK. The focus was on the impact of energy efficiency policies on disabled people, those with long-term illnesses and low-income households with children.

Key findings

The delivery of energy efficiency policy is variable and patchy, with vulnerable groups in greatest need not always eligible for support, or receiving support which fails to reflect their additional needs. To improve access for vulnerable groups and to meet their needs more effectively, the authors recommend a greater recognition of the needs of vulnerable groups, more consistent approaches across the UK and better cooperation with non-energy sectors.

The research identifies five key barriers to accessing vital fuel poverty support mechanisms and suggests ways in which access and outcomes can be improved for all.

  • Current energy efficiency programme design leads to an emphasis on meeting targets at the lowest cost – ‘the numbers game’. There needs to be a greater emphasis on the positive impact of intervention on the household rather than a focus on least cost.
  • Households in need are not always eligible and the mechanisms for finding households needs to improve. Greater access to high quality data, data matching and data sharing would enable households to be targeted more effectively.
  • Vulnerable customers are often unaware they are eligible for support and mechanisms for finding these people need to improve. Work is required to improve the trustworthiness of some of the schemes promoted.
  • Current programmes focus on technical improvements to buildings rather than the needs of vulnerable groups. There needs to be shift towards developing a better understanding of the needs of these people and how they engage with energy. 
  • The delivery of existing energy efficiency support programmes across the UK is patchy. Government should aim for consistent outcomes for households wherever they live.


Associated documents