Mapping Fuel Poverty Across Northern Ireland

Dr Paul McKenzie (Ulster) –

Fuel poverty is a significant issue across Europe and a particular problem within the UK and Ireland. Fuel poverty occurs when insufficient funds are available to pay for a warm and comfortable home. Households affected by fuel poverty are at risk of physical and mental health difficulties and are linked with excess winter mortality. While strategies exist to reduce fuel poverty, there is a pressing need to allocate assistance to those most in need. As fuel poverty is influenced by various socio-economic indicators, an area-based targeting approach was developed to identify households most at risk of fuel poverty.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be used to integrate variables that are key determinants of fuel poverty including temperature, the price of home heating oil, data on benefits (e.g. Disability Living Allowance) and deprivation. GIS enabled variables to be combined and weighted for each Census Output Area (COA) to create a fuel poverty risk score for every household in Northern Ireland.

This presentation highlights findings of research undertaken in relation to fuel poverty risk model, which received further funding from OFMDFM and the Department for Social Development (DSD) to liaise with local councils to determine the efficiency of the area-based model to identify those households most at risk. Questionnaires were conducted in partnership with 18 District Councils to identify the extent of fuel poverty within targeted COAs. The area-based approach proved very successful in identifying households at risk of fuel poverty.

The research found that the ability to combine, analyse and visualise many socio-economic datasets means that this technique is transferable to many other areas of application. This presentation explains that the approach enables planners and policy makers to visualise “at-risk” groups which in turn facilitates targeting of resources and assistance of those most in need. It also explains that the approach developed for fuel poverty has considerable potential for wider poverty mapping and research is currently underway at Ulster University on an area-based algorithm for mapping food poverty in Northern Ireland.

This seminar took place on 6th June 2018

Briefing Paper