Warm Well Families Feedback Event



Warm Well Families Feedback Event
Social relations, vulnerability,
and families living with fuel
Lucie Middlemiss
Sustainability Research Institute, University of
Fuel Poverty: Impacts on Children, Young People
and Families, Belfast
13th of October, 2015
Characterising FP from the bottom up
Challenges to Energy Vulnerability:
• quality of dwelling fabric
• energy costs and supply issues
• stability of household income
• tenancy relations
• social relations within the household and outside
• ill health
(from Middlemiss and Gillard, 2015 – open access)
• Agency of the fuel poor is limited;
• Need to understand household energy
vulnerability as a series of interrelated
• Precise dynamics of the relationship between
challenges is unclear;
• ‘Social relations’ stands out as the challenge
that has had the least attention in research to
Evidence on social relations
Family and friends help out with fuel
bills and fuel-hungry practices.
Households have a wide
variety of different
support network
People with limited social relations
have no one to turn to in times of
Non-negotiable needs of household
members can result in unaffordable fuel
Tensions within households around
practices that use energy.
Relations: inside, outside and agencies
Interviewer: “Do you have the central heating on much?”
Steve: “Not these past weeks but yeah, whenever the kids are in. If
I’m in on my own I just wear a hat.”
Maureen “Me daughter… she doesn’t have a drier, she doesn’t live
far from here, so she’ll just ask if I’ll wash it and dry it. You know
clothes for school and that… Only if she needs it for the day after or
Mildred: “And it was X who petitioned and kept on that we needed
the double glazing. She was the housing officer here at that time”
Social relations and poverty
• Social exclusion: "that people are not part of a
pattern of relationships in which they feel
obligated to others, and others feel obligated
towards them." (Spicker, 2007, p. 66)
• Family and others can increase or diminish
resilience to multiple deprivation (O’Leary and
Salter, 2014); and
• "Extended family members play a key role in
mitigating the risk of poverty for vulnerable
individuals and groups” (Tavistock institute, 2015)
Stigma and poverty
• "stigma exists when elements of labeling,
stereotyping, separation, status loss, and
discrimination occur together in a power
situation that allows them" (Link and Phelan,
2001, p. 377)
• Poor people deny their own poverty and blame
‘the poor’ (Shildrick et al., 2013)
• Stigma can result in people distancing themselves
from close relationships (Shildrick and
MacDonald, 2013; Garthwaite, 2015)
Stigma and energy use
• Hards, 2013: practices can have an impact on
status; lack of competence in a practice could
be stigmatising.
• Reid et al, 2015: people may avoid energy
efficiency measures to avoid looking too poor
(compounding existing stigmas) or too posh.
• BUT public discourses on energy use (moneygrabbing corporations) and poverty
(scroungers on benefits) apportion blame
Focus on social relations
• What is the state of social relations among the
fuel poor?
• How do social relations exacerbate or
ameliorate experiences of fuel poverty?
• Is the experience of fuel poverty something
that is also associated with stigma?
Research plan
Qualitative interviews looking at:
• Relations within the household (and
connection with energy use)
• Relations outside of the household (and
connection with energy use)
• Stigma in relation to fuel poverty
1. Inside the home
• Who lives here?
• For each person: what are their specific
energy needs?
• Do any of these energy needs affect the
relationships between family members?
2. Outside the home
3. Experience of Energy and Stigma
• Do you use energy differently when you have
guests? If yes why and how?
• Is there anyone you would be embarrassed to
talk to about your difficulties in meeting your
energy needs?

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