Energy poverty and social relations: understanding vulnerability through secondary qualitative analysis

This project draws on a large body of existing (under-utilised) qualitative data to investigate the impact of households’ social relations on vulnerability to energy poverty (10 datasets, approximately 500 participants). Our expertise in energy poverty, vulnerability and secondary data analysis will allow us to investigate the emerging link between social relations (friend and family relationships, and interactions with service providers) and households’ capacity to withstand energy poverty. Outputs will include a preliminary conceptual framework to explain how vulnerability to energy poverty is affected by social relations, and an analytical approach to secondary qualitative data on this topic. Outputs will be used as a basis for future grant applications (ESRC secondary data bid within 12 months, and NIHR bid within 18 months)
Energy poverty is defined as the inability of households to access adequate energy services, including home heating, electrical appliance use and mobility (Simcock and Mullen, 2016). Post 2008, and post austerity, this is a pressing concern for 10-20% of households in the UK. Friend, family and service provider relationships have an impact on households’ vulnerability to energy poverty, although the exact nature of this impact is unclear (Middlemiss and Gillard, 2015; Mullen and Marsden forthcoming). In this project we will build on understandings of energy vulnerability to explain how social relations impact on households’ capacity to act (Middlemiss and Gillard, 2015; Bouzarovski and Petrova, 2015; Emmel, forthcoming).
Our new interdisciplinary team (environment, transport, health, social policy, sociology) asks:
How do energy poor households’ social relations (with friends, family and service providers) impact on their capacity to withstand energy poverty, and vice versa?

  1. How do household members’ needs and practices interact with their capacity to withstand energy poverty?
  2. How do friend and family relationships outside of the home exacerbate or ameliorate households’ capacities to withstand energy poverty?
  3. What role do relationships with service providers, including state, private and third sector actors, play in supporting or undermining household capacities?

Lead Academic: Dr Lucie Middlemiss (Leeds)
Prof Angela Tod (Sheffield)
Dr Carolyn Snell (York)
Other staff associated with this project
Dr Caroline Mullen (Leeds)
Dr Nick Emmel (Leeds)
Dr Tony Ryan (Sheffield)
Ross Gillard (York)
Dr Jan Gilbertson (Sheffield Hallam)
Dr Tom Hargreaves (UEA)

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