Y Pwyllgor Cydraddoldeb a Chyfiawnder Cymdeithasol

Equality and Social Justice Committee

14/02/2022

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Jane Dodds MS
Jenny Rathbone MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Ken Skates MS
Sarah Murphy MS
Sioned Williams MS
Tom Giffard MS Yn dirprwyo ar ran Altaf Hussain
Substitute for Altaf Hussain

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Dr Victoria Winckler Sefydliad Bevan
The Bevan Foundation
Elliw Llyr Swyddog Strategaeth Tai, Cyngor Sir Ynys Môn
Housing Strategy Officer, Isle of Anglesey County Council
Jonathan Cosson Cymru Gynnes
Warm Wales
Matthew Kennedy Sefydliad Tai Siartredig Cymru
Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Angharad Roche Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Rachael Davies Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Rhys Morgan Clerc
Clerk
Sam Mason Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Yan Thomas Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:30.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 13:30. 

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Prynhawn da, pawb. I'd like to welcome you all, Members and members of the public, to the meeting of the Equality and Social Justice Committee. We've had apologies from Altaf Hussain, and I'd like to welcome Tom Giffard to the meeting today, who's substituting for Altaf. The meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv and there is simultaneous translation from Welsh to English. Do Members have any declarations of interest to make that are relevant to this discussion today? I can't see any indications of declarations of interest. So, finally, if I drop out of the meeting for any reason, for technical reasons, I'll ask Sarah Murphy to temporarily chair the meeting while I endeavour to rejoin.

2. Tlodi tanwydd a’r rhaglen Cartrefi Clyd: Sesiwn dystiolaeth 1
2. Fuel poverty and the Warm Homes programme: Evidence session 1

So, we're very pleased today to welcome our first two witnesses to our fuel poverty inquiry. Welcome to Jonathan Cosson from Warm Wales and Dr Victoria Winckler from the Bevan Foundation. Thank you very much indeed, both, for making the time to come and talk to us, and I wondered if you could just briefly tell us how successful you think the current Warm Homes programme has been in helping to tackle fuel poverty. Jonathan, would you like to go first?

I'm on mute.

Yes, certainly. Just a quick introduction from myself, I'm Jonathan Cosson, the chief executive of Warm Wales, a community interest company based in Port Talbot. It's been operational and been delivering work since around about 2004, targeting poor housing stock and trying to alleviate fuel poverty through community engagement projects and partnership working. We've been involved with Nest since the very start, since it first launched, and we've done a good couple of hundred applications and installations through to completion.

My evidence, really, today will be anecdotal. I read a lot of the National Energy Action high-level report on their evidence for this, but what I wanted to give was really on-the-ground experience of how it is for organisations that are actually applying to Nest through to final installation with engagement with the community members that are receiving the installations and how the actual scheme works on a day-to-day basis.

Overall, Nest has been very, very successful, I think. We've allowed a huge amount of people to improve their housing stock and have energy efficiency measures installed. Despite that, there is room for improvement. I don't think the amount of money that is going into the scheme is necessarily large enough, to start with, and what we tend to find is that the individuals that we work with, because they can only apply to the scheme once and there is a price cap or a grant cap terms of how much they can apply for, tend to go down the route of wanting a boiler automatically. Our experience and our ethos within Warm Wales are it should be fabric first, and we should be looking at sometimes the lower cost measures and not automatically jumping straight into having a gas boiler installed. But, naturally, home owners tend to deviate away from that. They see the big-ticket item that they're eligible for and jump straight into wanting a gas connection, or, sorry, a gas boiler. So, in terms of the overall scheme, generally positive, but room for improvement, and perhaps we can go into a little bit of detail about the eligibility routes and the measures that are available later on in the discussion.

Thank you very much. Before I go to Victoria, have you got lots of lovely birdsong outside your window, Jonathan?

No, is that myself? I thought it was being—

No, I'm not sure who it is, but just to say to the sound recordists, I'm getting lots of sea shore and then bird sounds, and I don't know where that's coming from, because everybody else is muted, but perhaps the sound recordists can sort that out.

Victoria, I wondered if you could just briefly give your assessment of the Warm Homes programme, in how well it's tackled fuel poverty. Obviously, we've got your papers, both of you. Victoria.

Thank you. My views about the Warm Homes programme are not from the operational side, as you'll appreciate. I think we would recognise the contribution that it's made to removing or certainly easing the pressure on families who have benefited from it, and I don't want to say anything that implies that it hasn't been helpful to people who have participated in it. But, I think, stepping back from that, I'd see two big challenges in the programme. The first one is scale. It really is a drop in the ocean compared with the challenges and the number of people who are in fuel poverty, and I think we'd also see an issue of focus: is it a fuel poverty programme, is it a crisis boiler replacement programme or is it a decarbonisation programme? And the big picture is I'm not sure it's doing any of those as well as it could, but that mustn't detract from the benefits that people have gained from it. 

13:35

Okay. I think you're right to point out that there are some quite significant issues that are now coming back to bite us in the context of the massive rises in energy prices. Could you outline the concerns you may have about the end of Arbed last November? The new programme is not due to come in until next year, in the 2023-24 financial year. So, Victoria, do you want to start off on that?

Yes. Well, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I'm sure if it had been known what was coming down the line maybe Arbed would not have been wound up. I think to step back from any measures to reduce fuel costs right now is not the best thing to be doing. It might have been right to have stepped back on Arbed because it wasn't particularly—. I mean, it had an area focus rather than necessarily on people in fuel poverty wherever they lived, but nevertheless, I think it's a huge misfortune that here we are with the biggest rises in prices and one of the planks in energy efficiency and fuel poverty having stopped.

Okay. Jonathan, you mentioned that you'd been involved in just over 200 successful applications, and then in your paper you talk about how in the last six months you've supported 65 households. That, to me, seems tiny. I mean, I appreciate that you're not the only agency involved here, but this is—. When Victoria is talking about the scale required, we just haven't even touched the sides, have we?

No, I completely agree. I think what we need to do is an area-based approach alongside the demand-led projects. There's definitely a need for an Arbed-type scheme because they allow us to tackle flats, terraced properties, and the demand-side programmes sometimes struggle with that, especially when you're looking at technologies such as external wall insulation. Whereas we can get them through the area-based approach, you tend to get far better community buy-in, and you need that sort of buy-in to get the insulations installed. Again, economies of scale: the cost comes down when we have an area-based approach—I think that noise is me—as opposed to individual properties and pepper-potting across the country.

So, the loss of Arbed was very disappointing; equally, we understood why there was pressures on it, both in terms of COVID and Brexit, and the delay in some of the insulations that were happening. But for us to have a black hole now in terms of an area-based approach is worrying because we've still got another over 12 months of the Warm Homes programme in the iteration that it is at the moment. And, like you mentioned, we are doing individual properties here and there, but the scale of them is so small that we're not going to tackle the larger issues that we've got facing Wales at the moment. 

However, from your paper we can see that Arbed was really not fit for purpose. I mean, there were some pretty massive issues both in the way in which Arbed operated—not very customer-focused—and also there were differences in the costing arrangements between Arbed and Nest, which, surely, should have been sorted out earlier. What efforts did you, Jonathan, make to point out to the Government that there were some massive disconnects and holes in the way in which the whole programme had been set up?

13:40

In terms of Arbed, we had very little impact. Our work tends to be around the individual and the engagement with an individual householder on a face-to-face basis. So, our role within Arbed was very limited, so I can't really comment on that. That's why, in the paper that we submitted, it was mainly focused, primarily, on the Nest scheme.

Okay. But, nevertheless, the Nest scheme doesn't seem to have been a coherent offer and nor was it focused on the needs of individuals who, in most cases, are quite vulnerable. 

Yes. The big issue that we find, in terms of Nest, is that it should be targeting vulnerable households. They're the ones that need the most support and hand holding through the process, and what we tend to find a lot with the Nest applications is that dialogue from Nest back to the home owner or the applicant is very, very limited. And unless you have a third party, such as Warm Wales, holding the hand of the home owner through the application, information gets lost, it doesn't get fed back to the home owner, and as soon as Nest have a gap in service, the application is either cancelled or delayed and, in some instances, we've been waiting seven, eight months for a survey to be conducted. So, in terms of the engagement from that home owner, who is vulnerable, who is isolated, and needs additional measures, sometimes, to be helped through the process, even a couple of weeks' gap is enough for them to switch off and disengage. And when we've had six, seven, eight months waiting for an electrical survey to be installed, it's not fit for purpose, in that sense, and the installations do drop off and we lose the engagement of that individual.

So, any reiteration or new version really needs to come down or organise better the planning and the communications between Nest, the home owner, and the organisation that's helping the individual. The people that we've been able to help have gone through because of the fact that we've been able to help them as a third party. If it's a vulnerable household that's trying to do this on their own, the likelihood of that success is very, very limited, from our experience, and they need the hand holding, they need the additional support, and the way that Nest is set up at the moment, in terms of communications, in terms of having to supply photo evidence, for example, to show that the room is empty before work can be conducted, none of that's conclusive of a good, robust scheme that will help an individual that needs additional support.

Okay. Thank you very much. While I ask Victoria to comment on the success of both schemes, I wondered if the sound recordist could have a discussion with Jonathan about the sound. They're very lovely sounds, but they're rather dominant, and I'm not quite sure what's going on. So, I think what will happen, Jonathan, is that you'll be asked to go into a side room, electronically, to have that discussion. So, if the sound operator could—. Have we got your contact details to enable us to have a conversation about it? Okay. Thank you.

Victoria, we shouldn't have started from here, surely. Why has this not been rectified before now? Jonathan's got some really good examples of how Nest isn't customer focused, and the Arbed programme underspend speaks for itself.

My knowledge of how it's worked, operationally, is primarily from some of the reports about Nest and Arbed, particularly from Audit Wales, and I think what you can see there is a good intention that drifted, I suppose, and it became very much about boiler replacement. Given the issues that Jonathan described, in terms of lack of communication and so on and so forth, my experience in very different fields is that if those things aren't put in the procurement arrangements, then businesses don't have the incentive to deliver. I think, knowing people who have participated, anecdotally, in Nest and Arbed, those kinds of things around lack of communication, or expecting rooms to be clear, and expecting attics to be empty and all that sort of stuff, are incredibly off-putting, particularly for some of the older people who might be participating, or people who have some of the other conditions that make them eligible.

I think all of this comes back to the way in which the programme's been conceived. The programme, it seems to me, is neither about energy efficiency nor about fuel poverty. It's there in the language—it's about vulnerable people. Well, most of the people in fuel poverty are in fuel poverty because they've got a low income, because they work in a low-paid job, or because of their household circumstances, or they don't get enough through the social security system. They don't necessarily have some sort of incapacity, and I think we've ended up with this almost residual sticking-plaster approach that, for me, and for us, doesn't succeed on either the energy efficiency or the fuel poverty front. Now, I don't know whether the origins of that are in the contract specification, in the programme design; I'm not sure, but certainly I would agree that it's falling short of what we might reasonably expect of it.

13:45

Okay, well, we'll obviously try and explore those further. Sarah Murphy, would you like to ask your questions, please?

Thank you, Chair, and thank you, Victoria. You're the only one here at the moment, so I'm going to start with you. Thank you for being here today and answering our questions. I was going to delve a little bit more into the support under the current programme, and I'd just like to jump in, really, and start with—. Localgiving found that neither Nest nor Arbed addressed immediate needs, and that actually they praised local projects that combined immediate interventions like fuel vouchers and draught excluders and thick curtains, with ongoing behaviour changes. Do you think that this is a fair assessment—that that was doing more to help people than these two schemes? You're muted at the moment. There we are.

I'm not sure whether the unmuting happens automatically or not, sorry. I can't comment on the comparison between the two schemes, I'm sorry. But what I can say is that if you look at the distribution of people in fuel poverty, a huge proportion of them—well, more than half, or nearly half—live in band D properties, rather than in the Es, Fs and Gs. So, by definition, unless they have a health condition, Nest is not reaching those people. If we also look at the income distribution of people in fuel poverty, a huge 78 per cent of them are in the lowest two income groups. So, whether your energy efficiency measures are the right ones to relieve fuel poverty amongst low-income groups is not clear, because some of those people may not need a new boiler or whatever; they need precisely what you say, in terms of fuel vouchers or draught excluders or shiny foil behind the radiator or whatever. Somehow, I think because of the design of the programme, it's drifted from that, and the emphasis has become on boiler replacement. So, to me, if you were starting to design a programme that was about fuel poverty, you would start by looking at household income, and you would look at where are those people on low incomes and what sort of homes do they live in, and what sort of help would be most effective in reducing their fuel poverty? For us, energy efficiency measures are just one of the package that would be needed.

Thank you. That leads me on nicely, then, to my next question. The Energy Saving Trust is one of those who have said that they don't think that benefit payments should be included and so they should be discounted from income assessments so that more vulnerable households can be supported, and also raise the income threshold to support more people impacted by the energy price rises. Do you think that would help?

13:50

I certainly think the eligibility criteria at present are very restrictive. You have to have a very, very low income in order to be eligible and, as you said, it doesn't disregard disability-related benefits, even though those disability-related benefits are supposed to help you cope with the cost of disability; they're not general spending money. So, absolutely, even pre the current energy crisis, I would have said 'yes', and we have said in response to earlier consultations that, absolutely, the income thresholds are far too low, but all the more so now. 

Thank you very much. Jonathan, I'm going to come to you if that's okay to ask you the questions I just asked Victoria. So, just to start off, as I said, Localgiving found that neither Nest nor Arbed addressed immediate needs and actually praised local projects that were able to provide immediate interventions like fuel vouchers, draught excluders, thick curtains. So, do you think that's a fair assessment—that those interventions were helping a lot more than Arbed and Nest—and what do you think could be done about that?

Yes. I think the comment was made earlier that Nest has ultimately turned into a boiler replacement scheme. When you look at the 2021 figures, I think that 95 per cent of the work that was installed was boiler related, or heating systems, 5.1 per cent, I think, was insulation measures, and 0.1 per cent of that was draught excluders and draught measures, which is a miniscule amount. So, I think we do need to move away from it becoming a boiler replacement scheme and look at the fabric first. We talked about external wall insulation earlier on, and EWI is a great way to insulate a property, if it's done correctly. The cost sometimes is prohibitive, so I think we need to look at increasing the grant levels to allow a multitude of different measures to be installed. One of the problems we tend to find with Nest is that it's not that it necessarily has to be insulation or heating, but because the grant levels, or the grant caps, don't allow both, because you pass the threshold, then it tends to be one or the other. So, I'd like to see that there would be, perhaps, two streams of funding for Nest, going further—one a heating stream and one an insulation stream—and you can combine the two and look at both so that you can do a proper whole-house approach, which we can't currently do in the way that Nest is being delivered currently. 

In terms of the quick wins, yes, I think draught excluding and that type of measure has its place. But, in terms of trying to tackle the large crisis that we're in at the moment, it has to be the bigger measures—the EWIs, the heat pumps—to a degree, but certainly looking at insulation measures and fabric first as the first point of call, rather than automatically going down the boiler replacement route. We're trying to move away from gas boilers, and insulation should be the first step that we look at. 

Just to follow on from that—and then I'll come to Victoria on this one—and what you said about boiler replacement, the Bevan Foundation have called an environmentally damaging practice installing new boilers rather than fixing the existing ones and that it should be stopped immediately. Do you agree that it should be stopped for the next round completely?

Yes, I completely agree. One of the things Nest tends to do is replace boilers automatically. One of the things we've asked for and lobbied for in the past is whether there can be a repair pot of money, so we don't automatically take out a boiler that's three or four years old that's not working and replace it. So, we're working on a scheme with Wales & West Utilities at the moment where we have a pot of money that goes into repair boilers. So, if Wales & West Utilities, for example, go to a property where they have to condemn a boiler, rather than automatically taking that boiler out, they look to see whether they can repair it in the first instance, which is obviously a better use of money, it's quicker for the individual, and it's far more environmentally sound. So, replicating a scheme like that for Nest would be a huge step forward and something that should be investigated, absolutely. 

Also, then, just because I asked Victoria this as well, do you think that benefit payments should be discounted from income assessments?

Yes, a wealth of benefits, personal independence payments and attendance allowance, shouldn't be included. I don't think they should be classed as an income, because they're for care and additional assistance. So, if we were to remove those, that would allow us to target people who are really vulnerable, and the ones that would be better suited than perhaps the broader scheme that we're facing at the moment.  

13:55

Victoria, do you want to come in and add anything to that? Okay. Thank you, both. Thank you, Chair. 

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Prynhawn da. Rŷn ni wedi cyffwrdd ar hyn, yn amlwg, yn barod yn yr atebion sydd wedi dod, sef yr argyfwng sy'n ein hwynebu ni nawr. Rŷn ni'n gwybod y bydd llawer mwy o bobl yn disgyn i dlodi tanwydd ac i angen dybryd nag hyd yn oed yn ystod yr amser pan fo Nest ac Arbed wedi bod yn trio mynd i'r afael â'r problemau hyn. Felly, eisiau gofyn ydw i yn hollol benodol sut gall unrhyw gynllun olynol fynd i'r afael â'r angen uniongyrchol sy'n ein wynebu ni nawr. Victoria, fe wnaethoch chi sôn, er enghraifft, ein bod ni'n gwybod bod nifer o bobl sydd mewn tlodi tanwydd ddim o reidrwydd ar fuddion prawf modd. Felly, sut gallwn ni fynd i'r afael â'r bobl hynny sydd mewn angen, ac efallai meddwl am ardaloedd gwledig hefyd? Beth yw'r ymyriadau uniongyrchol hefyd y gallwn ni eu defnyddio yn y tymor byr? Fe wnaethoch chi, Jonathan, sôn am bympiau tanwydd. Rŷn ni'n gwybod bod y rheini'n ddrud iawn ar hyn o bryd, onid ydym ni? Felly, jest meddwl am y tymor byr a chanolig, am wn i, er mwyn delio gyda'r argyfwng sy'n glanio nawr. 

Thank you, Chair, and good afternoon. We've already touched on this in answers to previous questions, and I'm referring now to the crisis that we're currently facing. We know that far more people will fall into fuel poverty and will face greater need than was the case even during the time that Nest and Arbed have been trying to address these problems. So, I wanted to ask very specifically how any successor scheme could address the direct and immediate need that we're currently facing. Victoria, you mentioned that we're aware that a number of people in fuel poverty aren't necessarily in receipt of means-tested benefits. So, how can we address those people who are in need, and perhaps thinking particularly about rural areas? What are the direct interventions that we can make in the short term? I think, Jonathan, you mentioned fuel pumps. We know that they're very expensive at the moment. So, I'm just thinking about the short and medium term in dealing with the crisis that is hitting us right now. 

Would you like me to go first? I think the rural situation is hugely important. They tend to have a higher focus of hard-to-treat properties and they're generally older, they're off gas, with solid walls, and generally the average income levels in rural areas are lower than in urban areas. So, we do need a very co-ordinated approach on how we do this. There isn't a quick win, unfortunately, I don't think. We do need to look at, as I mentioned earlier, the larger-type technologies, whether that be exterior wall insulation or what's most suitable for that property. The problem with a lot of rural properties is that they are quite specific, so they do need an individual survey for that property; there isn't a one-size-fits-all type of process that's going to work for everybody. But, I think a bigger emphasis needs to be put on rural communities, because work does tend to shy away and move to the urban areas because it's cheaper and easier to do. There's more workforce there and a better supply chain. So, I think a co-ordinated approach across local authorities, Nest, Welsh Government, to actually tackle the issues that the rural communities are facing is paramount in terms of trying to achieve something. You mentioned fuel poverty earlier. I don't necessarily think fuel poverty is a good proxy for this any longer. We need to be looking at the type of property. Energy performance certificates have got their place in it. Yes, they're not perfect, but it does give us an idea of what that property is and a direction for what we can do within the property. So, I think a targeted approach within a rural community is vital and needs to be incorporated in any new version of Nest and Arbed going forward.   

I don't have a lot to add to what Jonathan has just said, except that we have envisaged a shift to some sort of means-tested approach that isn't all or nothing—so you can get it all if you're on a benefit and nothing if you're £2 over—but some sort of sliding scale that offers a mix of grants and loans depending on your income, which would have the benefit of helping people on middle-level incomes not only to cut their energy costs, but also to reduce their carbon emissions whilst still retaining that free provision, and more expensive provision if that's what it takes for the people on the lowest incomes. You're absolutely right; rural properties, as Jonathan said, are very much less energy efficient. We did a briefing on expenditure on energy, and it is very much higher in rural areas.  

Roeddwn i â diddordeb yn eich papur chi ynglŷn ag edrych ar faint mae pobl yn defnydddio o'u hincwm. Hynny yw, mae gen i ddiddordeb mewn beth rydych chi'n meddwl yw y modd y dylem ni ei ddefnyddio o asesu yr angen hwnnw. Yn amlwg, mae incwm isel yn un ohonyn nhw, ond gallwch chi fod ar incwm isel ond mewn cartref sydd yn effeithiol o ran ynni. Felly, jest eisiau gofyn ydw i—yn enwedig nawr o ystyried yr argyfwng sydd o'n cwmpas ni—beth ydych chi'n teimlo y dylem ni ddefnyddio fel y modd o adnabod y bobl sydd angen y cymorth a'r ymyriadau.

I was interested in your paper where you look at what percentage of people's income is spent. I would be interested to know how we should assess need. Clearly, low income is one factor, but you can be on a low income and living in an energy-efficient home. So, I just wanted to ask—particularly now, given the crisis facing us—what you think we should use as the means of identifying those people in need of these interventions and this assistance.

14:00

I think that if you're looking at a programme to reduce fuel poverty, you have to look at that balance between household income and household expenditure. Energy efficiency is just one of the factors that contribute to household expenditure. I suspect that this would have to be an individual assessment, but once households start spending more than a certain proportion of their income, they have got nothing left for the other essentials. I can't offer you a suggestion as to what that might be, but that's a very different approach to the all-or-nothing approach that we have at the moment. So, it's something that would need quite a lot more work.

Diolch. Cwestiwn arall, felly. Mae'r ddau ohonoch chi wedi sôn am y trafferthion o ran cefnogi pobl sy'n gymwys i gael y cymorth y maen nhw ei angen. Rydych chi wedi sôn am brosesau cymhleth, a nifer y rhwystrau sy'n cael eu rhoi yn ffordd pobl, yn enwedig pobl sydd yn fregus ac sydd, a dweud y gwir, angen mwy o gefnogaeth na'r hyn sy'n arferol neu a fyddai'n ddisgwyliadwy, efallai, gan y Llywodraeth. Felly, pa newidiadau ydych chi'n teimlo sydd eu hangen o fewn y gwasanaethau cyngor a chyfeirio yna, a fyddai'n cael eu darparu gan Nyth neu unrhyw raglen olynol i hynny, yn enwedig o ystyried sut mae angen cefnogi pobl sydd mewn argyfwng ariannol, economaidd, neu hefyd sydd ag anghenion cymhleth? Jonathan, ydych chi eisiau mynd yn gyntaf ar hynny?

Thank you. On to another question, therefore. Both of you have mentioned difficulties in supporting people who are eligible for support. You have mentioned complex processes, a number of barriers being placed in the way of people, particularly vulnerable people, and people who need more support than is usual or would be expected from Government, perhaps. So, what changes do you think are required within the advice and signposting services provided, which would be provided by Nest or any successor programme, particularly in considering how we support those people who are in financial crisis or people who have complex needs? Jonathan, would you like to go first on that?

Yes, certainly. I think that it comes back to communication. The home owner needs to be informed about where they are in the process of the application, so that weeks and weeks don't drift by without them having any knowledge of whether the application has been successful or turned down, what measures are being installed, when the installation date is, when the survey date is. All of these different steps within the process are falling short.

The home owner at the very start doesn't necessarily know when the next stage is going to be, and that needs to be communicated. Quite frequently, we will help an individual, they will have contacted Nest, and there has been a gap in the information, or the information hasn't reached the right department. It's been lost. As soon as that gap occurs, the application is either turned down, or there is no proactiveness from Nest to contact that home owner, in terms of, first, chasing up the information, and secondly, to make sure that they are able to supply that information.

Thirdly, when they are dealing with people who are off broadband, who haven't got a mobile phone, and who are unable to take photos of their room being cleared, for example, there needs to be more assistance and more hand holding through the process for those individuals. We are talking about some of the most vulnerable people in the community. They do need assistance. Whether that comes from a third party helping them, like ourselves, or whether Nest can step up and do a bit more of the hand holding themselves, that's up for debate.

But, something needs to be done to make sure that those people don't slip by the wayside, and they are helped through the process, and they don't get pushed back at each step of the process, which is currently happening at the moment. There needs to be a more concise and smoother flow of information between Nest and the home owner, and a bit more of a proactive service, like I mentioned previously. 

Okay. Victoria, if you want to come in briefly, and then I think that we need to move on.

Thank you very much. I just wanted to add that this is, of course, one of many, many different schemes that someone on a low income needs to apply for, and give the same information all over again—proving their income, proving their address, et cetera, et cetera. The number of times that someone has to do that, and the number of different agencies that people have to deal with, and the number of slightly different requirements that they are coping with, is yet another reason why we think that it should all be streamlined into, if not a single system, then certainly to enable more passporting through, so that if somebody applied, say, for a council tax reduction scheme and is eligible and they live in a particular type of property, then they can be automatically referred, if they want to, with an opt-out rather than an opt-in, into getting help with their energy efficiency and fuel costs.

14:05

Can I just add one thing? I think the timescales and the milestones in terms of how the process works need to be shortened considerably. We've had numerous examples of people that have gone through the application for the scheme and the process, they've done all the different steps, so they've cleared their room and they're waiting for a survey date or an installation date, then that date then turns out to be two months down the road. So, that home owner then has got a room—. They're generally living in small properties, they've cleared the room and they need to leave that room empty for a further six to eight weeks. That's not acceptable on anybody's scale, let alone the people who we're trying to help through the process. So, that's a major issue that we find time and time again, and that again needs to be addressed. There need to be milestones and clear timescales where the home owner knows what the next step will be and when they're expecting to hear from Nest and the installers for when that final installation will be delivered. 

Thank you, Jonathan. You've given us some excellent examples in your written evidence and we'll obviously follow this up. I'd like to move on now to discuss whether an area-based approach is what we need in future. Jane Dodds.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd, and good afternoon, Victoria and Jonathan. As Jenny says, I'd like to focus on the future of this. We've had the Arbed scheme and we're looking at, hopefully, the next iteration of that. So, could I ask you a couple of questions about that, please? What do you think that programme should look like? Should it be area based? Should it be about engaging with local authorities? Do you think there are other partners that we should be including in that as well? Thank you. Maybe Jonathan first.

As I said, I think an area-based scheme works when it's done correctly. It needs to be aligned alongside the demand-led schemes, so Nest and Arbed working collaboratively together, in parallel. But I think what we need to also do is make sure that we draw in and lever in additional funding from other areas, whether that be the energy company obligation, Welsh Government, local authorities, so everybody is working collaboratively together rather than independently, or trying to do the same thing but at slightly different times, not knowing what the the other organisation is doing. It could be straightforward. It's not a complex thing to go into a property and install the measures. But when we've got so many different arms doing different things, the information gets lost or doesn't quite co-ordinate properly. So, yes, an area-based scheme needs to be continued alongside the demand-led scheme as well, but we need to make sure that we're communicating properly with—. You ask what other organisations should be involved; local authorities are key, registered social landlords are absolutely key as well, but they all need to work collaboratively together on the project.

We definitely see a role for area-based programmes and involvement of local authorities. I think it can create momentum, I think it can create confidence in the community that this is okay and it's a good thing to do and they can go and see what Mrs Jones's house is like and that it was okay for her. I think if you tie that in with not just other local energy initiatives, but with local community groups, with perhaps local area renewal schemes, then I think there's a win-win all around, and definitely local authorities and local community groups need to be involved in that. 

Thank you. Jonathan, I know you've got your hand up, but I'd like to come back with a little spikier question, if that's all right. Does it not depend on the capacity of the local authority to engage? I'll give you an example. Powys, my own local authority, in year 2, had no homes that were part of the Arbed scheme, and I'm sure there are others in other years. So, just if you can get your head around that—the capacity of the local authority, their commitment, et cetera. Is that something that needs to be wrestled with if there's a future iteration? Thank you. That's the end of my spiky questions.

My understanding is that the Arbed areas were designated through looking at small area energy efficiency figures, which were based on the rating at the time of house sale, and therefore had some element, to a greater or lesser degree, of historical data in there. I think I would hope that most local authorities would be able to rise to the challenge. There would be questions, or there should be questions from the electorate if they didn't. So, I live in hope, really. 

14:10

Thank you. And I think, Jonathan, you had something to add also, so if you could just very briefly answer that. Thank you.

On the previous question, it was just backing up what Victoria said in terms of community buy-in being vital for schemes like this. And word of mouth does work, and schemes are successful when they get the buy-in of the community.

Leading on to the point regarding local authorities, again I echo what Victoria said. It's got to be the responsibility of local authorities to find the capacity and the resource to deliver these schemes. If we're talking about millions of pounds-worth of investment and money being levered into a local authority, it's their role to find the capacity and the resource to engage with the organisations, the contractors and the parties delivering the work, to make sure that the work and the investment come into their area rather than their neighbour's local authority. So, it's on their shoulders, unfortunately. 

Powys is a good example. We're managing the energy company obligation for Powys at the moment, and capacity is an issue there. But working with third sector organisations on the ground, there is the route in to being able to engage with these projects, and it doesn't have to come on the shoulders of the local authorities. They can work in partnership with other people, and they do need to back the scheme so that the communities have the confidence in the scheme to make sure it's a legitimate proposal and the work is going to be done to high workmanship. 

Okay. Thank you very much. Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd. Thank you, Chair. 

I think it makes sense if we now come to Tom Giffard who had some questions about rural fuel poverty, and then I'll come back to urban situations. Tom. 

Yes, thanks, Chair. I know you spoke a little bit in answer to Sioned Williams earlier about rural poverty, so I wouldn't want you to repeat anything you've already said. But I am curious to what extent you feel the current programmes that are out there reflect the need of rural households that are fuel poor, and whether there's any additional, specific support that you think should be made available to meet those challenges. 

I think the hardest thing in terms of delivering work in the rural community is, one, supply chain, which I briefly mentioned earlier, and having to bring in resource from outside the area, which doesn't always fit well with the local authorities where we're working. And, secondly, the identification of the properties in the first instance. Further work needs to be done, whether it be mapping or actually finding the properties that need the greatest amount of work, and then working with those home owners to try and source the funding that can be levered in to actually install the work. So, it's trying to identify the people that need the assistance, because, unlike an urban area, they are more scattered around. The local authorities don't necessarily know the stock levels and the people that need assistance in their areas. So, again, it's engaging with third sector organisations that are on the ground, that do this day in, day out, and have the links and the leads and can identify where the work needs to be done. 

Yes, just on that, you spoke a little bit earlier when we talked about rural fuel poverty about how expensive that can be sometimes, because houses are quite often inefficient and sometimes off grid. So, can you just give me an understanding of how much more expensive an undertaking like that would be in a rural area?

I can't give you an exact figure because it varies on the size of the house; there are so many variables in there. But, statistically, rural properties, generally, are older. They are older housing stock. They're hard to treat because they've got a stone wall, and they're off gas. So, all that combination of factors leads to far more expensive fuel bills for that home owner. And, like I mentioned earlier, again, the average income for rural communities is lower. So, you've got more expensive properties to try and heat on a lower income, which obviously leads to more likelihood of fuel poverty within those communities. 

Okay. Thank you. I just want to come back to what is mainly an urban situation, which is the—. You say, Victoria, in your paper that there's little correlation between a home's energy performance rating and the market rent, according to the research you did last summer. It would be interesting to know whether that has changed at all. But if we then either encourage or oblige the market to improve their energy efficiency, can you tell us how we might be able to do that without once again pushing the poorest citizens into the worst heated homes?

14:15

Well, that, Chair, is the challenge. Interventions in rents can have all kinds of unforeseen consequences. The obvious way to begin to address fuel poverty and poor energy efficiency in the private rented sector, to me, is through standards. There is a very high proportion of the private rented stock that has a heat and cold hazard—I can't remember the figure off the top of my head, apologies, but it is quite significant. And I think, to require landlords not to let properties that are impossible to heat at great cost, and/or are damp, is probably the way forward, and then you deal with the rent consequences from that. I think if you tinker with rents, unless you're very confident of how the market's operating, there can be unforeseen consequences. So, I would prefer to see intervention around standards rather than around rents.

Okay, thank you for that. Jonathan, is there anything you can add to this, in terms of how we get private landlords to step up to the plate? We clearly can't provide people who are owner-occupiers—. If they want to go on living in a leaky home, that's their choice, I suppose.

Yes, the private rented sector is probably the one that gets left behind, because it's the hardest to work alongside. You have the minimum energy efficiency standard, which has been introduced, in terms of making sure that a property is up to a certain band on an EPC. But the engagement or the catalyst to improve stock from a landlord's perspective has to either be through grants or loans and legislation, to make sure that that property is up to a certain band before it can be rented out. It needs to be a sort of carrot-and-stick approach, I think, on this one, and it's got to be at, I think, a standard, but grant and assistance to help them progress and improve the energy efficiency of the property.

Okay. This is an important area. I think Sarah Murphy wanted to pursue this matter.

Yes. So, just looking at how a successor scheme could help advance equality and social justice, which you have touched on a lot throughout your answers, but just again to dig down into them a little bit—Jonathan, I just wanted to ask you how to address the admin and practical barriers to ensure entry and equal access. And you said about the breakdown in communication as well—how can that be addressed?

It's a million-dollar question, I suppose, isn't it? It's the delivery of the scheme. The scheme's got to be designed so that the home owner is put at the forefront of the decision making, as opposed to the scheme being, ultimately, a way or a means for the scheme delivery agent to offload boilers into the properties, which, essentially, is what it is at the moment. The home owner needs to be at the front of all decision making, which they're not at the moment. So, the scheme needs an overhaul, to make sure that the delivery mechanism is done, with milestones like I mentioned, so that the home owner knows where they are throughout the whole process, without getting lost in the system, information going missing, and then, ultimately, the application failing. So, whether that's closer engagement with organisations on the ground, or closer engagement with the RSL, or whoever the individual may be, but, at the moment, there are too many gaps in the process, and people are getting lost at the moment, and that needs to be addressed and secured.

And also you mentioned earlier on about people having to clear out the rooms and then having to leave them empty for a really long time with these kinds of things. But also, do you think the cost of enabling the works, then, should be factored into the next programme, to help with the financial barriers to entry?

One of the big issues that we do get is, again, I think you're right, there are cost implications for multiple stages of the process. So, take, for example, they have the work done, and they need to redecorate. Some people will be put off, because they don't want to do the redecoration at the end of it because there is going to be a cost incurred, and they haven't got the money to do it. So, there are multiple stages where costs can be incurred through the process that should be tailored in and brought to the attention of the applicant, but also a means of them assessing or accessing money to pay for that. And, again, we will receive a smaller drop-off in claims and applications disappearing if there is that process, and that sort of mitigation against the further cost implications further down the road.

14:20

Thank you very much. Victoria, was there anything you wanted to add on that? And also just, I suppose, a wider question as well, like how do you think, in the next scheme, the—[Inaudible.]—equality and social justice better?

I can't design a whole new scheme, but I think what we can see is that by not covering all tenures and all circumstances in the same way, there are inequalities that result from that. For example, we know that black, Asian, minority ethnic groups are more likely to live in private rented housing than white groups, and that is, from memory, one of the most common tenures for that group. So, if this programme isn't reaching private rented accommodation, then it's not serving the needs of those particular groups. That's the most obvious one, but I think you can probably apply that in other ways. Equally, we know that older people very often live in owner-occupied homes, and you could say that arguably this programme has helped to meet their needs. So, as always, it's not a simple and black and white thing. And I think we have an approach at the moment in which it's as if it's the building that's the driver, whereas I think what should be the driver should be the people and their circumstances and what they need, and that the fabric of the building becomes part of the solution, not the object. I'm not sure if I've explained that very well, because we're not designing a whole new programme, but it seems that something has gone back to front with it all. I think Jonathan has hinted at that too by saying the person isn't at the forefront of what's being delivered.

Absolutely, and it kind of very much goes back to what you said at the beginning about the conception of this. Things have got a little bit muddled about what the focus of that was. Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.

Okay. I just wanted to pick up one point that Jonathan made, which is that you're ineligible for Nest if you have a business registered at the address where you live. The obvious case of that would be a farmer; whether they're a tenant or they own it, their business is where they live. So, that means no farmers can get Nest. Is that right?

You can't have a business to the address, so if they've got that business address—. Ultimately, yes, that would be correct.

Most farmers live on the job, don't they? I mean, there are some who don't—a few—but the vast majority live on the farm, because they want to keep an eye on it, so that means none of them would be eligible if they lived on their business property.

That goes back to Tom Giffard's point earlier in terms of another rural situation, that the rural community tend to have more home addresses with their business joined. So, there is a rural issue as well as—. Yes, that's my point.

Given that self-employment is already—or was, pre COVID—very significant in Wales, and very significant indeed in rural areas, at up to 15 or 20 per cent of employment, that is knocking out a considerable number of people from the scheme, and we also know that people who are self-employed tend to have lower than average incomes.

Okay, thank you. I now want to bring in Ken Skates. You've got some concerns for the next programme.

Yes, thanks, Chair. Some of the question has been answered to a degree. In brief, though, if we could get an assessment of whether a single programme is at all possible—a single programme that tackles both fuel poverty and decarbonisation simultaneously, or whether you believe that there should be separate, albeit complementary, programmes implemented, and including, perhaps, if you just want to touch—I know it's not strictly speaking part of this discussion, but whether a programme needs to be put in place for businesses as well in terms of decarbonisation and business liability. 

14:25

I'll pick up the business one first. In terms of businesses, one of the things we thought, or suggested, is that you have a higher grant cap in terms of allowing people—. Or the assessment for that business, you assess or gauge what the turnover of that business is, so that small, independent one-man bands with a very low income, a very low turnover, would be eligible for Nest. If you've got a larger business with a higher income, obviously, you're ruled out. So, I think it needs to be an assessment on the business and the scale of that business within that home to see whether they would be eligible to participate in the scheme. That's a simple solution.

Can I just come in on that just briefly, then, Jonathan? Sorry, just for absolute clarity there. How would that play alongside the economy futures fund, which is operated by a different department from Government, which focuses investment in those businesses that have a sustainable future? Would you have complementary schemes, then, for the larger businesses and the smaller ones, but they would operate separately?

I don't know the answer to that one. Yes, you need—

—a joined-up approach. Maybe both departments need to speak and come to some sort of sensible answer of how they can work in parallel with one another.

In terms of decarbonisation and fuel poverty, they don't always have to work against one another, but there just needs to be a co-ordinated approach in terms of how we can reduce fuel poverty, but look at the carbon agenda at the same time. The improvement of the housing stock with a co-ordinated and sensible approach to improving the life of that person in the home needs to be central to what we do, and it's not beyond the realms of—. It's a tricky one, I agree, Ken, and there isn't an answer that I can give you today in terms of how we do that, but they do need to work in parallel together. We need to improve the housing stock, but, equally, we need to help the individual in that property. And I'm sure there will be an easy or a relatively easy answer to that, but I don't know it today, unfortunately, for you.

Thank you. We said in our evidence that we thought there was a case for two separate but related programmes, and I think that's because they both have different drivers. There is, I think, an arguable case for dramatically stepping up the action to decarbonise our homes, and that needs to be done quickly and it needs to be done at scale. And that means offering assistance to people who have medium to high incomes as well, which is why we suggested that could be done on a sliding scale. There could be economic benefits from that; Wales TUC have estimated significant job-creation potential and business opportunities from that, and that needs to be done—to some extent, it's to be done to decarbonise. There are still people who, no matter what kind of property they live in, will struggle to afford their fuel bills. There are people in relatively energy-efficient homes—nearly half of people who are in fuel poverty live in a band D home and it may well be that their properties can't be upgraded. And so, for them, the solutions need to be different. It might be around insulation measures; it might be around actual help with their costs.

So, the point of overlap, which is where I start getting twitchy, because you think, 'Oh, this would be really messy in delivery terms', is when the answer to someone's circumstances in fuel poverty is around energy efficiency measures, but I think, fundamentally, they've got different drivers, different focuses, and different need for scale as well. That's not to say you don't need to recognise you are messing with people's homes when you're doing a decarbonisation programme, and the kinds of things that Jonathan's described should not be acceptable in that, any more than in a fuel poverty programme.

What about one programme with two separate strands? Part of the problem with having different programmes is you have different administration systems that lead to—well, the—[Inaudible.]—effect where you have a huge proportion of funding just taken up with admin.

14:30

It could be. It could be two strands, so long as—. And that, in theory, would help them to work together. I think the messaging might be more difficult. I think energy efficiency has a powerful pull. I think you would need to be clear that, for the fuel poverty wing, if you like, or strand, there would need to be other tools in the tool box. 

Okay. Great. Thanks. I'm just going to ask now about skills as well, and the skill set amongst the workers of Wales. Do we have sufficient numbers of people skilled in the required areas to meet our decarbonisation and energy, insulation and fuel poverty objectives? If not, how are we going to do it?

The short answer is 'no', we don't, by any means. As I mentioned earlier, we are delivering or managing an ECO scheme for a number of the local authorities around Wales. What we want to try and do is use the local supply chain wherever we can for those final installations of Welsh organisations. Unfortunately, at the moment, we tend to find that we can't get the work done on a reasonable timescale, so we're finding ourselves having companies from Shropshire, Newcastle, Burnley coming into Wales to do the work because we can't get a local installer to do it, because (1) they're not skilled enough, or (2) they haven't got a large enough capacity to deliver the work that they've got currently. So, we need to invest in workforce; we need to skill more people up so that we can do it on our own doorsteps and not, unfortunately, have outside organisations coming into Wales and delivering the work that the local supply chain should be doing here. So, the short answer is 'no', we haven't got the capacity to do it.

Thanks. I think that pretty much answers it. Victoria, is there anything you'd like to add to that? No. Okay. Thanks, Chair.

Thank you. Just finally, Victoria, surely the fuel poverty focus needs to be coming from the single advice fund deliverers. Because they're having to look at the benefits checks and all these other related matters, they tend to be dealing with the more vulnerable citizens, who, I agree, may not be living in a leaky home, but they maybe have additional health needs that don't enable them to move around.

I can't comment on whether or not people are getting the help through that route. I just hesitate when people are already being suggested that they have to go to lots of different places.

Okay. Fine. That's great. Thank you very much. Thank you very much, both of you, for your contributions. We will send you both a transcript of what you have said so that you can amend anything that has been misheard or misinterpreted. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you very much for your focus on this really important matter.

Thank you.

Thank you very much.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. So, can we take an 11-minute break and come back just before 2.45 p.m. so that we can get cracking at 2.45 p.m. on the dot? Very good. Meanwhile, if the clerks can deal with making sure that the—.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 14:33 a 14:46.

The meeting adjourned between 14:33 and 14:46.

14:45
3. Tlodi tanwydd a’r rhaglen Cartrefi Clyd: Sesiwn dystiolaeth 2
3. Fuel poverty and the Warm Homes programme: Evidence session 2

Welcome back to the second session of our fuel poverty inquiry. For this session, we have Elliw Llyr, housing strategy officer for Ynys Môn county council and Matthew Kennedy, Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru. Welcome to you both. I wonder if I could just start by asking you the extent to which you think the current Warm Homes programme has been effective in tackling fuel poverty. Elliw, would you like to start?

Diolch, a diolch am y gwahoddiad i fod yn rhan o'r sesiwn y prynhawn yma. Dwi'n meddwl bod Arbed a Nyth wedi bod yn llwyddiannus yn targedu tlodi tanwydd, ond dwi'n meddwl bod o'n bwysig cydnabod hefyd fod tlodi tanwydd yn multifaceted ac mae yna oblygiadau o ran hyn yn ariannol ar unigolion, teuluoedd, y gymdeithas a'r wladwriaeth.

Felly, dwi'n meddwl ei fod o i'w ganmol bod Llywodraeth Cymru wedi nodi eu bod nhw eisiau dileu tlodi tanwydd a bod hyn yn cael ei adlewyrchu yn eu rhaglen llywodraethu nhw ar gyfer 2021-26. Ond dwi'n meddwl bod yr her yn dal i fodoli, fel roeddwn i'n sôn. Mae'n effeithio gymaint ar wahanol elfennau o fewn tŷ rhywun, sef, ydy rhywun yn bwyta, ydy rhywun yn cynhesu'i dŷ. Costau: mae yna gymaint o sylw ar hyn o bryd ar gostau'n codi, heb sôn am unrhyw oblygiadau, wedyn, ar iechyd meddwl, iechyd corfforol, ac yn y pen draw, wedyn, y gost ar y wlad. Felly, mae'r hyn y mae Llywodraeth Cymru'n trio'i wneud drwy Arbed a Nyth angen, efallai, cydweithio'n well er mwyn cael mwy allan o'r rhaglenni yn symud yn ei flaen.

Thank you, and thank you for the invitation to be involved in this afternoon's session. I think Arbed and Nest have been successful in targeting fuel poverty, but I do think it's also important to recognise that fuel poverty is multifaceted and there are financial implications for families, individuals, society and the state.

So, I think it is praiseworthy that the Welsh Government has identified the eradication of fuel poverty and that that is reflected in its programme for government for 2021-26. But I think the challenge remains, as I mentioned. It impacts on so many different aspects of one's home, whether one can heat their home or eat. Then there are costs. There is so much coverage now of the rising cost of living, never mind any health implications—mental health, physical health—and ultimately the cost to the state as a result of that. So, what the Welsh Government is trying to achieve through Arbed and Nest is laudable, but I think there needs to be better collaboration in order to get more from those programmes in moving forward.

Yes. I think I wouldn't disagree with anything Elliw said there. This is going to be, obviously, treading over some old ground in terms of our reflections on the programme, but, certainly, in terms of capturing good evaluation, robust monitoring data has been a real challenge. The Wales Audit Office are really, really clear that, actually, we haven't had a really clear understanding of where a household was to where they got to in terms of the interventions they received. Undoubtedly, lots of the interventions had a positive impact, but whether they actually lifted them out of fuel poverty I think is another question.

I think I'd definitely echo Elliw's point around this is all so interconnected, isn't it? Fuel poverty in itself is a real—. It's a broader challenge around poverty, about housing costs, about eating costs and the costs of day-to-day living. We know, for example, that housing costs are one of the leading factors in poverty generally, so, making progress on this agenda in particular is also very reliant on making progress across the piece so that we actually have affordable—all the main things in people's lives are sufficiently affordable to keep them living a desirable quality of life. I think in that sense, there's a real onus on any future programme to look at that broader impact on household financial resilience. I think also it's worth recognising that the scheme itself, obviously, is reliant on factors that are not in the Welsh Government's domain, not in their control. And energy price increases obviously is a major factor at the moment, but, you know, welfare changes, the £20 cut to universal credit, and local housing allowance rates are a massive issue in the private rental sector, where they are so wildly out of pace with actual rents that that in itself is going to be one of the factors that could indirectly push people into fuel poverty. So, I think it's never thinking about a specific element in and as of itself; it's about thinking of that whole piece when it comes to household resilience.

14:50

The Arbed programme was actually wound up last November, and the new programme that the Welsh Government's currently consulting on isn't due to kick off until the 2023-24 financial year. How big a concern is that? What impact might that have on the sorts of people you're talking about? Do you want to start, Matthew, and I'll come to Elliw afterwards?

Yes. It's huge, isn't it? Let's face it. It's such a trying time for households across Wales, when we think about that cost-of-living increase combined with ongoing uncertainty across a number of industries, and that employment situation for many, many people. When we think about the huge energy price increases, fuel increases more broadly as well, all that just comes at such a terrible time to be thinking, well, actually, Arbed, even though it's certainly not perfect, it's one of the really good ways to potentially help people who might be struggling at the moment. And I think not having that in the interim is certainly going to cause additional hardship. You know, as a charity, we don't know what that really looks like, and I'm conscious we're waiting on the evaluation of the Arbed programme, and I would hope that would come out with lots of really robust learning for us, to really inform the future of that scheme. But, no doubt, at the present time, lots of our members who work directly with people who are maybe struggling to afford their rent, struggling with their general living costs, seeing increased child poverty—you know all this stuff, all the really difficult things we by no means want to see—. There are no easy solutions, and, certainly, at a time when all that is becoming maybe potentially worse, yes, Arbed not being around is certainly a massive concern.

Elliw, how big a problem is it from the local authority perspective?

Dwi'n meddwl taw un o brif wendidau Arbed ydy ei fod o wedi bod yn gynllun byr. Efallai ei fod o wedi bod yn dair blynedd, ac wedyn mae o'n dod i stop, ac wedyn mae yna gynllun arall yn cychwyn. Mae'n anodd i awdurdod lleol wedyn i adnabod adnoddau tymor hir iddo fo. Does yna ddim refeniw yn dod i mewn i lywodraeth leol ar gyfer atgyfnerthu neu gefnogi'r cynlluniau yma, felly mae'n rhaid dibynnu ar swyddogion sy'n bodoli'n barod. Dydy'r cyngor ddim yn gallu helpu yn llawn efo hynny achos mae yna nifer o priorities eraill yn dod i mewn. Ac os ydy o'n anodd i'r awdurdod lleol fod yn cynllunio, yna sut mae pobl sydd i fod i gymryd rhan, ac yn annog i gael cymryd rhan yn y cynllun, fod i wybod amdano fe?

Yn aml mae llywodraeth leol yn cael ei gweld fel logistics partner yn hyn i gyd, a than fod rhywun yn gweld llythyr efo enw'r cyngor arno fo, dydyn nhw ddim yn trystio'r cynlluniau. Ac yn aml iawn, pan fo cynlluniau fel hyn yn cychwyn, mae yna bobl yn ffonio'r cyngor yn gofyn, 'Ydy hyn yn un go iawn? Ydy o'n genuine, ynteu oes yna rywun yn trio ein 'con-o' ni yn fan yma?' Felly, dwi'n meddwl ei fod o'n bwysig ofnadwy fod yna neges gyson yn mynd allan i bobl a bod pobl yn gwybod ei fod o ar y ffordd. Achos, yn aml iawn, mae cynlluniau'n dod i mewn, yn cael eu cwblhau, ac yna maen nhw'n mynd ac mae'r cyngor yn dal i fod yna. Ni fel cyngor sy'n pigo ymholiadau, cwynion, pethau yn barhaus yn ystod y cyfnod yma. Felly, dwi'n meddwl bod angen cysondeb a pharhad i'r cynllun.

I think one of the main weaknesses of Arbed is that it was a short-term programme. It was three years, and then it came to an end, and then another scheme is put in place. It's difficult, then, for a local authority to identify long-term resources. There's no revenue coming in to local government in order to support these plans, and therefore you have to rely on officers already in place. The council can't give full assistance on that because there are so many other priorities at play, and it's difficult for the local authorities to plan, and if that's the case, how are those who are being encouraged to participate going to learn about it?

Very often, local government is seen as a logistics partner in all of this, and until someone sees a letter with the name of the council on it, they don't trust the schemes necessarily. And very often, when these schemes are put in place, people phone the council and ask, 'Well, is this genuine or is someone trying to scam us here?' So, I think it is very important that a consistent message is conveyed to people and that people know that it's available. Because, very often, these plans are introduced, they're drawn to a close, and then they disappear. And the council is still there, and we pick up the complaints, the enquiries during this time. So, I do think we need continuity and consistency.

How successful do you think Nest and Arbed have been in using data that's available to target likely eligible homes, and for the way in which the reporting and monitoring of these programmes have been done? Elliw, do you want to start there?

Fel awdurdod lleol, dŷn ni'n cyfeirio pobl at Nyth, a dyna le mae'r berthynas, a dweud y gwir, yn gorffen. Dŷn ni'n trio ei annog o, ond eto, heb yr adnodd yna, heb y refeniw y tu ôl iddo fo, dŷn ni ond yn gallu cyfeirio pobl ymlaen. Dydyn ni ddim yn gwybod wedyn beth sy'n digwydd, os oes yna unrhyw issues yn y system a dydyn ni ddim yn gwybod wedyn pa ddata maen nhw'n gweithio oddi arno fo. Mae ganddyn nhw griteria mewn lle, ond does yna ddim lle i lywodraeth leol ddylanwadu neu geisio helpu efo hynny.

Hefo Arbed, wedyn, dwi'n meddwl ei bod yn deg dweud mai sporadic ydy ein perthynas ni wedi bod hefo Arbed am Byth, ac mae'n dibynnu wedyn ar ba ddata sydd gennym ni. Dŷn ni, yn y gorffennol, wedi gweithio'n agos ar gynlluniau; ar droeon eraill, dydyn ni ddim wedi cael dim cysylltiad â chynlluniau, ond eto dŷn ni i fod yna yn hyrwyddo'r cynllun. Fel roeddwn i'n sôn gynnau, ni ydy'r wyneb, ni'n aml iawn ydy'r un mae pobl yn trystio, ac weithiau dydyn ni ddim yn deall yn iawn pam fod un tŷ yn cael ei ddewis dros y llall neu pam fod ardal yn cael ei dewis dros y llall, er ein bod ni'n trio helpu a rhoi data a gwybodaeth leol. Dwi'n meddwl bod angen dod â'r awdurdod lleol i mewn yn gryfach.

As a local authority, we do refer people to Nest, and that's where the relationship ends. We do promote it, but without the resource and without the revenue underpinning it, we can only refer people on. We don't then know what happens, whether there are any issues in the system, and we don't know what data they're using either. They do have criteria in place, but there is no role for local government to influence or try and assist with that.

With Arbed, then, I think it's fair to say that our relationship with Arbed am Byth has been sporadic, and it depends what data we have. In the past, we have worked closely on plans, but on other occasions we've had no involvement with plans, but we are there to be promoting them. And as I mentioned earlier, we are the face of it very often, and we, very often, are the trusted partner, and sometimes we don't understand why one home is chosen over another or one specific area is chosen over another, although we are trying to help in providing local data and information. I think the local authorities need to have a stronger role. 

14:55

I think data is one of the key challenges for the programme going forward. I think it's really encouraging to know the Welsh Government have been working on housing stock analytical resource, so combining things like modelled, administrative and survey data at an individual house level to better understand the quality of that home. I think that could be a good way to target properties. At the moment, that kind of information is too patchy, it's not granular enough, so when we think about achieving value for money for the programme, making sure interventions have maximum impacts, having that is really key. I'm conscious that that resource as a data resource at the moment isn't really widely available, but certainly is going to be used to inform things like the Welsh housing condition survey and that sort of stuff, so it'd be really good to understand how that information and knowledge can be migrated further into the sector, particularly from a local authority perspective, so that authorities are more empowered with that data, because it is going to be absolutely vital for how that activity is better targeted.

Thank you. Sarah Merry—Sarah Murphy, I beg your pardon, wanted to come in at this point, just to have a look a bit further at how these current programmes have been working. Sarah.

Thank you, Chair. I don't mind being called Sarah Merry, that's fine. [Laughter.] I'll come first to you, Matthew, if that's okay, just looking at the support under the current programme. So, I'll ask what I asked in the previous session: Localgiving found that neither Nest nor Arbed addressed immediate needs, and actually praised local projects, because they felt that they were the ones who provided the immediate interventions, like the fuel vouchers, draught excluders and thick curtains. Do you think this is a fair assessment?

A difficulty if you want to know how fair that assessment is—. I can go still through the evidence in more detail, but I guess one of the things that struck me from the Climate Assembly UK was that people want to see local, tailored solutions, with authorities, partners, third sector organisations working together on really local, sometimes bespoke, solutions rather than a one-size-fits-all.

So, I think it is encouraging to hear some of those what seem lower intervention-type measures are actually really highly valued in practice. When we think about Nest, with things like boiler replacements, which it's become a bit synonymous with, part of the issue has been around not having that whole-house approach. We know, anecdotally, lots of challenges have been around maybe replacing things like boilers, but actually the rest of the house being in quite a poor state of disrepair. So, I think, for us, having that whole-house approach going forward is going to be absolutely vital. We're thinking about doors, windows, roofs, and those are the physical means, but certainly things like household education, better understanding of how you use certain energy sources, all that has a massive bearing on how people might have maximum efficiency from their heating system. So, I think it's encouraging to hear that kind of local practical stuff being valued so highly, but I think they've got a real place and can find better parity with the current programme with less stringent means of doing that kind of retrofitting activity.

Thank you. And then, just to follow up, really, we also heard the Bevan Foundation call for the environmentally damaging practice of installing new boilers rather than fixing existing ones to be stopped immediately. So, do you agree with that, and then, beyond the fabric changes to improve energy efficiency, what other support would be offered by a successor scheme?

15:00

Yes, definitely. I think that makes complete sense. Some of these boilers are still very much within their usable lifespan and might need some quite minor maintenance activity at some phases. I think, beyond maybe the physical retrofitting we've been talking about, for me it's around better consumer advice. I couldn't go out tomorrow and figure out how to make my home more energy efficient. I'd find that really tricky, and I work in the sector. So, I think, in terms of consumer advice, it can be a real hotchpotch of things, really, when you think about—. There are lots of stuff at the moment about air-source heat pumps, when we know, actually, there are lots of different things that need to happen to make an air-source heat pump work really effectively. They're really expensive. There might be other minor changes that can happen to make a house perform more effectively. I think we need really good, robust consumer information that's easy to digest. That's easy to say and hard to do, but I think that's the side we have to work more on because at the moment there's good industry and sector knowledge maybe about what needs to happen, but poor information out there for consumers to go out and actually think, 'Well, how do I make a really informed, intelligent choice, based on evidence that I can really trust?' Because if you're going to ask people to invest thousands of pounds-worth of money in improving their home or looking at how we better spend public money through grants and that sort of stuff, we need to base it on a really robust evidence base that people can really trust.

That's brilliant, thank you so much. Elliw, can I ask you the same in terms of Nest and Arbed not addressing the immediate need and, as I said, other local projects being praised for what they were able to do? Do you think that's a fair assessment? 

Os ydyn ni'n sôn am whole-house approach, yna dŷn ni angen whole-person approach hefyd a whole-behavioural approach hefyd. Ac, yn sicr, un peth dŷn ni'n ei gefnogi yn Ynys Môn ydy wardeiniaid ynni sy'n rhoi bron iawn one-to-one i berson er mwyn cael y defnydd gorau o'u tai. Ac ar bob cyfle efo Arbed am Byth, dwi wedi bod yn cefnogi hynny achos dim jest y mesurau rydych chi eu hangen—rydych chi angen hefyd gweithio efo pobl.

If we're talking about a whole-house approach, then we also need a whole-person approach and a whole-behavioural approach too. Certainly, one thing that we're supporting in Anglesey is the energy wardens giving one-to-one services to people to get the best out of their homes and all of the support with Arbed am Byth, because it's not just the measures you need—you also need to work with people too.

Thank you. And then, again, what do you think of what the Bevan Foundation has said about stopping the replacement of boilers and fixing the ones that are there, and also, moving past the fabric changes, is there anything else that's been a success? 

Efallai fod hynny'n berthnasol efo Nyth gan fod Arbed wedi bod yn edrych ar fesurau eraill hefyd, ond, ie, cefnogi, os oes modd cadw system i fynd a'i fod o'n fit for purpose, yna efallai mai newid bach sydd angen ei wneud. 

Perhaps that might be pertinent to Nest because Arbed had been looking at other things too, but I would certainly support, if possible, to keep any system that's fit for purpose in place, but perhaps there is a need for a minor change there.

Thank you. And then just to ask you as well about what your view would be on the benefit payments being discounted from the income assessments so that it could be opened out to more people and the threshold could be raised?

Eto, dwi'n meddwl mai Nyth ydy'r cynllun yna, ac, wrth gwrs, dŷn ni'n croesawu hynny os ydy o'n helpu mwy o bobl ar incymau isel.

Again, I think you're referring there to Nest and we would certainly welcome that if it helps more people on low incomes.

Wonderful, thank you. Matthew, that question as well.

Yes, I'd completely agree.

Thank you very much, both of you. Thank you, Chair. 

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Yn amlwg, dŷn ni'n gwybod, a dŷn ni wedi sôn amdano fe'n barod, fod yna waethygu yn mynd i fod yn sefyllfa'r rheini sydd mewn tlodi tanwydd. Felly, o ran meddwl am y cynllun olynol, sut gall unrhyw gynllun neu gynlluniau olynol fynd i'r afael ag angen uniongyrchol, angen dwfn? Sut dylem ni wneud hynny? A meddwl hefyd sut dylem ni nodi'r aelwydydd sydd ag angen uniongyrchol. Pa ymyriadau a fyddai'n briodol eu defnyddio ar frys, efallai? Elliw, ydych chi eisiau mynd yn gyntaf?

Thank you, Chair. Clearly, we've already mentioned that there will be a deterioration in the situation of those in fuel poverty. So, in terms of thinking of any successor scheme, how could any successor scheme or schemes address the immediate need, the deep-seated need that we're seeing? How should we do that? And also, how should we identify those households that have direct need? What interventions would be appropriate to use as a matter of urgency, perhaps? Elliw, would you like to go first?

Dwi'n meddwl fy mod i yn cyfeirio yn fy ymateb efallai nad ydy pobl yn aml iawn yn cysidro eu hunain i fod mewn tlodi tanwydd, ond yn sicr mae'r holl newyddion ar gostau byw uwch yn mynd i dynnu sylw pobl at hyn, a gobeithio ei fod yn mynd i annog pobl i ddod ymlaen. Dwi'n meddwl bod angen i'r cynllun i'r dyfodol fod yn ystyried financial inclusion hefyd, a hefyd gyngor ar sut i wneud y defnydd gorau o'ch cartref. Yn sicr, o fewn gwasanaethau tai, rydym ni'n cynnig financial inclusion, cymorth i bobl gael at fudd-daliadau, cymorth ymarferol, a hefyd rydym ni'n gweithio efo Citizens Advice. Mae gennym ni hefyd swyddfa o dwls i helpu bobl i gael mynediad at fudd-dal, achos dwi'n meddwl mai jest un agwedd ydy tlodi tanwydd—mae yna nifer o bethau eraill yn mynd ymlaen hefyd y gallem ni fod yn helpu efo. Felly, dwi'n meddwl bod angen i gynllun fod yn cynnwys lot mwy na jest mesurau oer, os liciwch chi, o newid yn y tŷ—mae'n rhaid mynd â'r person efo chi hefyd.

Well, in my evidence, I think I do refer to the fact that people don't often consider themselves to be in fuel poverty, but the news of certainly higher living costs will highlight this issue and hopefully will encourage people to come forward. I think any successor scheme needs to take account of financial inclusion too, and also provide advice on how to make the best use of your home. Certainly, in housing services, we do provide financial inclusion support, and support for applying for benefits, both practically and working with Citizens Advice. We also have a suite of tools to help people to access benefits, because I think fuel poverty is just one aspect of this—there are many other factors too that we could help with. So, I think any scheme needs to include a lot more than simple assessments of homes—you have to take the person with you too.

15:05

Ac, yn amlwg, o ran incwm, rŷn ni'n gwybod bod Nest ac Arbed wedi'u targedu, neu roeddech chi ond yn gymwys ar gyfer y cynlluniau hynny os oeddech chi ar fuddion prawf modd, ac rŷn ni'n gwybod bod llawer o bobl, yn enwedig mewn ardaloedd mwy gwledig, ddim yn gymwys, er eu bod nhw mewn tlodi tanwydd. Felly, o ran y mesuriadau rŷn ni'n eu defnyddio i wybod bod rhywun yn gymwys, beth hoffech chi ei weld o ran hynny mewn unrhyw gynllun yn y dyfodol? Pa fesur ŷch chi'n meddwl fyddai'n fwyaf defnyddiol?

And, clearly, in terms of income, we do know that Nest and Arbed were targeted or only available to those on means-tested benefits, and we know that many people, particularly in more rural areas, aren't eligible, although they are living in fuel poverty. So, in terms of the eligibility criteria, what would you like to see included in any future scheme? What criteria do you think would be most useful?

Mae incwm, dwi'n meddwl, yn gorfod bod yn ystyriaeth, ac incwm isel—dim jest bod ar fudd-daliadau. Hefyd, mae'n rhaid i ni annog landlordiaid i weithio efo ni. Dwi'n meddwl, fel roeddwn i'n sôn yn fy mhapur, fod tai sector breifat, efallai, mewn cyflwr gwaeth nag ydy tai cymdeithasol erbyn hyn, ac mae'n anodd gweithio efo landlordiaid achos rydym ni angen eu hannog nhw i wella eu tai a does yna ddim byd ariannol ar hyn o bryd i'w helpu nhw neu yn eu hannog nhw i wneud achos mae tenant yn byw ac, efallai, yn talu rhent ac, efallai, ddim yn prynu pethau eraill. Felly, mae'n rhaid inni weithio efo landlordiaid ac adnabod beth sy'n mynd i weithio iddyn nhw hefyd.

Well, income has to be a consideration, and low income—not simply being on benefits. We must also encourage landlords to work with us. I think, as I mentioned in my evidence, that private sector housing might be in a poorer state than social housing these days, and it is difficult to work with landlords because we do need to encourage them to make improvements, but there is no financial incentive at the moment for them to do that because a tenant may be paying rent and paying costs, but not buying other things. So, we have to work with landlords and identify what will work for them too.

Diolch. Matthew, oes gennych chi rywbeth i'w ychwanegu ar hynny, o ran sut dylai unrhyw gynllun olynol nawr fynd i'r afael â'r angen uniongyrchol rŷn ni'n ei wynebu ar hyn o bryd?

Thank you. Matthew, do you have anything to add on that, in terms of how any successor programme should address the direct need that we're currently facing?

Yes, I think, to add to that, there are a few things, in terms of things like hidden fuel poverty. So, I think you rightly have pointed out the challenge at the moment is particularly intense, like seeing more people self-disconnecting, using or rationing their fuel usage and, of course, that in itself is going to create a bit of a hidden problem. I think it is about ensuring that we have sufficient advice and support available for things like—. I always think of things like housing support grant, for example, as being a good source of funding provision for services to help people on quite a holistic basis, and that, of course, is a tenure-neutral source of funding. That will look at people's, obviously, support needs whilst in the home, but will look more holistically at their lives and things that are impacting their ability to live a good quality of life.

I guess you asked about the shorter term, things that we can do right now. I think that is really tricky; it's a difficult thing to get a grasp on. I think what we do need is a good understanding of the whole-life impact of the new measures we're looking to introduce. So, I think, at the moment, for me, programme design is absolutely vital. If we think about all the new measures, we might think, 'Well, these are all great shiny things we can begin to maybe point people to because we know they work', but, actually, a lot of these technologies are still very much in their infancy and we haven't got enough information about whole-life costs and that sort of stuff. So, again, when we come to giving people good advice, and good, solid advice not just about the here and now, about the current costs, about the current considerations, but what they might be over the next five, 10, 20 years, for example, that's the kind of level of thinking we should be applying to these kinds of problems.

Diolch. Rŷch chi'n sôn yn fanna am gyngor ac yn y blaen, ac mi wnaethoch chi, Elliw, hefyd gyfeirio at sut mae pobl yn dod at y gwasanaethau neu'r cymorth yma. Pa newidiadau fyddech chi eisiau eu gweld o ran y cyngor a'r math o gyfeirio sy'n cael ei ddarparu gan gynllun neu raglen olynol, yn enwedig, efallai, i gefnogi pobl sydd ag anghenion cymhleth? Fe glywon ni, mewn sesiwn dystiolaeth yn gynharach, ynglŷn â phobl yn rhoi'r gorau neu ddim yn cymryd y gefnogaeth neu'r cymorth sydd ei angen oherwydd bod y gofynion arnyn nhw, a'r diffyg cefnogaeth, yn ormodol. Hoffwn i wybod yn ymarferol beth yw'ch barn chi ar hynny. Beth sydd angen ei wella o ran hynny?

Thank you. You mentioned advice and so on, and I think you, Elliw, also referred to the way people are introduced to these services and this support. So, what changes would you want to see in terms of the advice and signposting provided by any successor programme, particularly, perhaps, in supporting those with complex needs? We heard in an earlier evidence session about people throwing in the towel or not taking up the support that they need because the expectations placed on them, and the lack of support, were too much for them. So, I'd like to know on a practical level what your view is on that. What needs to improve there?

15:10

Ie, dwi'n meddwl bod fy ymateb i am fod ychydig bach yn gyfyng ar hwn, achos, fel roeddwn i'n sôn, rydyn ni'n cyfeirio pobl ymlaen at Nyth. Yn sicr, mae pobl wedi clywed am Nyth, felly mae wedi bod llwyddiant yn hyrwyddo'r cynllun. Yn anffodus, dwi ddim yn gwybod, fel roeddwn i'n sôn, beth ydy'r broses unwaith y mae pobl yn ffonio i fyny neu gysylltu efo Nyth. Buaswn i'n gobeithio bod yna fodd i'w wneud o'n fwy streamlined. Ond eto, gan fod Nyth yn cael ei weld fel cynllun cenedlaethol, mae wedi cael ei hyrwyddo gan Lywodraeth Cymru, ac mae hynna wedi bod yn llwyddiant. Dwi ddim yn meddwl bod neb dwi wedi'i weld yn cwestiynu Nyth, achos maen nhw'n gwybod beth ydy o, ac maen nhw'n gallu cyfeirio ato fo. Mae'n rhaid adeiladu ar hynny. Felly, fedraf i ddim ond rhoi sylwadau o'r safbwynt hwnnw, mae gen i ofn.

Yes, my response will be quite limited here, because, as I said, we refer people on to Nest. Certainly, people have heard of it, so it has been a success in terms of the promotion of the programme. Unfortunately, I don't know, as I said, what the process is once people actually contact Nest. I would hope that it could be made more streamlined. But again, as Nest was seen as a national programme, it has been promoted by the Welsh Government, and that was successful. I don't think there's been too much questioning of Nest, because they know what it is, and they can refer to it. We need to build on that. So, I can only give those comments from a certain perspective.

Diolch. Matthew, oes gennych chi rywbeth rydych chi eisiau ei ychwanegu?

Thank you. Matthew, anything you wanted to add?

I would just add I think it's about trying to write up and monitor how that advice helps. To what extent do people's situations change because of that advice? I think it all comes down to that for me, because unless you know that intervention's making a difference in practice, whether it be over the next week, month or year, the value of that advice could be diminished or greater as a result. So, I think it needs to go hand in hand with robust monitoring and evaluation on the back of it.

Iawn. Diolch yn fawr. Diolch, Cadeirydd.

Okay, thank you. Thank you, Chair.

Thank you. Can I now bring in Jane Dodds, who's going to talk about the shape of future programmes based on our experience to date? Jane.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd. Prynhawn da, Elliw, a Matthew hefyd. Dwi eisiau dilyn ymlaen o beth mae Sioned wedi bod yn gofyn, ynglŷn â'r dull ar sail ardal. Dwi'n teimlo tipyn bach yn nerfus yn gofyn i Elliw am hyn, a dweud y gwir, ond, ie, jest i ganolbwyntio ar beth fydd yn effeithiol i'r rhaglen nesaf wrth i ni edrych ymlaen at y dyfodol a rhaglen a fydd yn lle Arbed. Ydych chi'n meddwl bod canolbwyntio ar a gweithio efo awdurdodau lleol yn effeithiol? Hefyd, oes yna bartneriaid eraill y gallem ni eu cynnwys yn y gwaith yn edrych ymlaen? Gaf i ofyn i Elliw yn gyntaf, os gwelwch yn dda?

Thank you, Chair. Good afternoon, Elliw and Matthew. I wanted to follow on from Sioned's questions and look at the effectiveness of the area-based scheme. I'm a little nervous in asking Elliw about this, but I wanted to focus on what would be effective for a successor programme as we look to the future in terms of a replacement for Arbed. Now, do you think that focusing on and working with local authorities would be an effective way forward? Also, are there other partners that could be included in this work for the future? If I could ask Elliw first.

Diolch. Ie, mae rhai cynlluniau Arbed wedi bod yn gweithio'n agos iawn efo cynghorau a chymdeithasau tai, a dwi'n meddwl ei fod e'n wir i ddweud bod yna economies of scale wedi dwyn ffrwyth efo hynny. Beth dwi'n ei feddwl ydy, mewn ardal lle roedd yna glwstwr o dai wedi cael eu hadnabod, mi oedd yna wedyn fodd o weithio efo cymdeithas dai neu gyngor sydd efo'i stoc i gymryd mantais o gynllun lle roedd y cyngor a'r gymdeithas dai yn gallu gwella ansawdd y tai. Yn amlwg, roedd ganddyn nhw eu rhaglen cynllunedig beth bynnag, a doedd o ddim yn tynnu oddi ar hynny; roedd o jest yn cael ei weld fel mwy o gynllun ac yn ffit well o fewn y gymdeithas fod o ddim yn targedu un tŷ neu un ardal benodol, fel petai. Felly, dwi'n meddwl bod hynny wedi gweithio yn dda yn y gorffennol.

Dyna un o'r heriau, mewn ffordd: mae'r cymdeithasau tai ar gael, rydyn ni fel awdurdod lleol ar gael i fod yn cynorthwyo, mae gennych chi Citizens Advice, mae gennych chi'r trydydd sector, mae gennym ni Medrwn Môn, eto i gyd, sydd angen bod yn rhan o hwn, achos pan fydd y llythyr yn cyrraedd ac yn dweud potentially fod yna gynllun ar gael, fel roeddwn i'n sôn, y cyngor mae pobl yn ffonio. Rydych chi angen hefyd partneriaid eraill i fod yn ei annog o hefyd, achos mae angen cyrraedd pawb a gwneud y cyfle gorau i bawb fod yn rhan o'r cynllun, a dweud y gwir.

Thank you. Yes, some Arbed schemes have been working closely with councils and housing associations, and I think it's true to say that economies of scale have been brought about as a result of that. What I mean is that, in an area where there was a cluster of homes identified, it was then possible to work with the housing association or a council that holds stock to take advantage of a programme where the council and the housing association could improve the quality of those homes. Obviously, they had their planned programmes anyway, and it didn't detract from those; it was seen as more of a scheme and a better fit within the community, in that it didn't simply target one home or one specific area. So, I do think that that has worked well in the past.

That's one of the challenges, in a way: the housing associations are available, we as a local authority are available to provide support, you have Citizens Advice, you have the third sector, we have Medrwn Môn, who all need to be part of this, because when the letter arrives and says, well, there's potentially a scheme available, as I said, it's the council that people phone. You need the other partners to be promoting this, too, because we need to reach everyone, of course, and to give everyone the best possible opportunity to be part of these programmes.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. A Matthew hefyd.

Thank you very much. And Matthew too.

I wouldn't add too much to what Elliw has said there. I think the role of housing associations in this kind of thing, even though they're not directly involved, is also really vital because of things like the optimised retrofit programme and all the major developments, or the leaps forward, being done through that, and the opportunity for works being done in an area for those organisations to benefit homes outside of their immediate remits, but nonetheless, have a massive impact on the feel of their local communities and their social obligations as organisations, too.

It would be hard to ignore that the impact of fuel poverty has a massive health impact, but the role here of local health boards is hard to advocate to some extent, because I know, actually, in practice it's really difficult for health boards to engage over and above what is the immediate day-to-day priority of running the health service and, sometimes, rightly so. But, when we think about the health impact of fuel poverty on households, children and then the longer term impact on the health service and ongoing engagement, we know that has a massive effect on services, and therefore the resources they've got to spend within communities.

So, I think really consistent—and I would emphasise the word 'consistent'—health board engagement at a local level is really important. We've seen it to some extent through things like the housing support grant, where health boards recognise there's a real role for them in helping to understand how we better fund things like homelessness prevention services. That can be patchy as well from health board to health board, and I understand why that is: it's not because of culture or, necessarily, individual personalties; it's simply because of an overly spread resource, to put it as clearly as possible.

15:15

Diolch yn fawr iawn. A gaf i jest ofyn un cwestiwn arall? Jest canolbwyntio ar sgiliau a beth sydd gan gynghorau, ac Elliw, mae'n grêt bod chi yma heddiw o Ynys Môn. Pa fath o sgiliau a phethau sy'n bwysig i'w cael mewn cynghorau ac awdurdodau lleol i ni wneud yn siŵr bod yna raglen sy'n effeithiol yn y dyfodol? Jest ateb byr, os yw hynny'n iawn. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Thank you very much. Could I ask one further question focused on skills within councils? And it's wonderful to have you here from Anglesey today, Elliw. What kinds of skills are important within local authorities for us to ensure that we do have an effective programme for the future? Just a brief response, if you would. Thank you.

Mae gen i ofn bod angen amrediad o sgiliau. Rydych chi eisiau ymgysylltu, rydych chi eisiau hyrwyddo'r cynllun, rydych chi angen cael mynediad at ddata, rydych chi eisiau project manejio fo, rydych chi eisiau riportio. Rydych chi eisiau ychydig bach o bob dim yn rhan o hyn, a dyna oeddwn i'n ddweud: oherwydd diffyg adnodd, diffyg refeniw, mae o'n cael ei weld fel, 'O ia, mae'r cyngor ar gael, mi wnawn nhw wneud hyn', ond mae yna gymaint yn rhan o hyn a chymaint o elfennau gwahanol sydd angen eu project 'manage-io', i bob pwrpas.

I'm afraid you need a range of skills. You need engagement skills, you need to promote the programme, you need access to data, you need project management skills, you need reporting. You need a little bit of everything as part of this, and that's what I was saying earlier: because of a lack of resource and a lack of revenue, then it is seen as, 'Well, the council's there, they'll do this', but there are so many different elements to this, and it does need to be project managed, to all intents and purposes.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Elliw, a Matthew, dwi ddim yn siŵr os ydych chi eisiau ychwanegu at hynny os oes yna rywbeth arall. 

Thank you very much, Elliw, and Matthew, I don't know if you would have any comment on this. Is there anything you'd like to add? 

A couple of things around things like community engagement. That feels really, really vital in terms of communicating how any future scheme will work and the benefits to those communities. Elliw touched on some of these, like technical skills, looking at future trends in terms of technology, and I think certainly things around evaluation of impact, the circular economy, and how can any programme or how can an authority be confident that their spend is having a really positive effect within their local economy. I think that's really important for the next stage of things.

Diolch. Elliw, you mentioned earlier that the most energy-inefficient homes are largely in the private sector because quite a lot of work has gone on with social housing. How do you think we can encourage private landlords to tackle fuel poverty amongst their tenants?

Rydyn ni'n ffodus o gael Rent Smart Wales a buaswn i'n annog bod unrhyw gynllun i'r dyfodol yn cydweithio'n agos iawn efo Rent Smart Wales. Yn aml, rydyn ni'n gallu gwneud cysylltiad fel awdurdod lleol efo landlordiaid. Rydyn ni'n cynnal fforymau, ond fel y gallwch chi ddychmygu, y landlordiaid sydd eisiau bod yn rhan, ac efallai sydd efo diddordeb mewn gwella'r sefyllfa i denantiaid, sy'n rhan o'r rheini. Beth dydyn ni ddim yn gallu ei gael ydy'r landlordiaid yna sydd yn rhentu tai ac yn codi rhent yn uwch, ac efallai ddim yn poeni wedyn sut y bydd tenantiaid yn talu eu biliau, ac ati. Eto, dwi'n meddwl bod yna le i ni fod yn hyrwyddo'r cynllun, ac mae'n rhaid cael budd i'r landlord. Os nad ydy'r landlord yn gweld budd o wella eiddo, yna dydw i ddim yn gweld pam fuasen nhw eisiau cymryd rhan mewn cynllun. Ac o fy mhrofiad i, beth dwi wedi ei weld ydy ein bod ni'n targedu'r person sy'n byw yn y tŷ, yn hytrach nag efallai weithiau hefyd targedu'r person sydd biau'r tŷ.

We're fortunate to have Rent Smart Wales and I would encourage any future plan to work closely with Rent Smart Wales. Very often, we as a local authority can have relations with landlords. We do hold fora, and so on, but you can imagine that the landlords are those who want to be part of that and are interested in improving the situation of their tenants. What we don't have access to is those landlords who rent homes and increase rents, and aren't particularly concerned about how tenants are able to pay their bills, and so on. Again, I think there is scope for us to be promoting the programme, and there must be a benefit to the landlord. Unless the landlord sees the benefits of making improvements to a property, then I don't see why they would choose to participate. And from my experience, we are targeting the tenant rather than also targeting the owner of the property.

Matthew, did you want to add anything before I ask Ken Skates to come in?

Yes, I think the private rented sector is a particular challenge. When we think about the changes that have happened in the last few years to that sector alone, they've been pretty substantial. When you consider things like the new fire safety legislation, rightly coming in, that's going to mean massive changes to how different landlords upgrade their homes, make them safe and so on, and that is completely right. But then, when we lay on top of that things like the need to make their homes more sustainable as well, I can understand why, as a private landlord, you might feel a bit daunted by that kind of obligation, going forward.

I think that what we do need to do is to make it really clear what kind of support is out there for private landlords. I think the local authorities have a really important role to play through private landlord forums, ensuring that there is an ongoing dialogue there, and that landlords feel heard about the operational issues that they are experiencing, as well as remaining really informed about what kind of support is out there, going forward.

I think also, when we think about the optimised retrofit programme, for example, it's focusing on social housing at the moment, but social housing has been subject to the Welsh housing quality standard, a few decades-worth of investment, really. So, the PRS is starting off on a footing that is much further behind. I'm not saying that that is right or wrong, but I think when we consider the cost of some of the work that may need to be undertaken in the private rented sector, it's likely to be reasonably high in some of these homes that were built pre 1919.

I think then, finally, it's about thinking about tenant empowerment too. Because I think that Elliw is right, it's not necessarily about always targeting specific tenants, but tenants have got an ability to get their landlord to act. So, when you think about the renting homes Act and the health and housing safety rating system, one of the category 1 hazards there is around excess cold. You could report that to your local authority. You'd go through a number of processes and you might end up at a housing tribunal, different enforcement action from the local authority. All that, however, takes a level of competence and a level of understanding, and it's not straightforward. So, I wouldn't say that that's necessarily something where you would say to someone, 'Well, definitely go off and do that', because it isn't that easy. But it is about also giving tenants that easier-to-understand information about the ways in which they might be able to challenge their landlord and prompt some independent and quite robust action to ensure that there's an ability there to improve their situation.

15:20

Okay. I think that Ken Skates wanted to pursue this very subject.

Thanks, Chair, yes. A bit of a technical question on what would be required, really, in terms of support for local authorities if minimum energy efficiency standards were to be changed to EPC level C or B. And is it even viable to enforce—is it possible to enforce—those standards against, particularly, EPC level B?

Dwi'n meddwl buasai'n rhaid inni ddod â fo i mewn drwy Rent Smart Wales neu rywbeth, gan fod gennym ni drefn ar hyn o bryd lle mae'n rhaid i landlord gofrestru. Buasai'n rhaid inni edrych i ehangu sut rydym ni'n gwneud gorfodaeth, a wedyn sut rydym ni wedyn yn cydweithio efo iechyd yr amgylchedd gan, yn aml iawn, nhw fuasai efallai'n gweithredu wedyn ar hynny. Ond, i mi, gan fod yna system Rent Smart Wales yn barod, ac mae yna ddull o gofrestru, mae honno'n ffordd o orfodi.

I think that we would need to introduce it through Rent Smart Wales or something, because we do have a system now where landlords must be registered. We would have to look to expand how we undertake enforcement, and then how we collaborate with environmental health too, because, very often, they would be acting on that. But, for me, as there is already the Rent Smart Wales system in place, and there is a registration process, then that is going to assist with enforcement. 

Just to add to that, I think that's a real challenge for local authorities in terms of—. If local authorities were to do it directly themselves through things like environmental health, that would be a massive challenge to regulate and oversee. There are some obligations already through things like, as I just mentioned, the health housing safety rating system. But then, with the changes to the minimum energy efficiency standards, that could add another layer of operational obligation, which might be really hard to meet in practice.

Okay. Okay, thanks. And in terms of local authorities again, what role do you think there might be for councils to engage with private landlords in explaining the benefits of improving the fabric and energy efficiency of properties? And is there, again, the resource there? Is it viable for local authorities to do this work?

I think that, for our members who do work in local authorities, there is variation in how that engagement works at a local level. Some have really vibrant landlord forums. Some have others that aren't as well attended. Others do different kinds of engagement to suit their local needs. I think what is a challenge is that those forums are made up of a range of landlords, often from those who own one or two properties to those who own larger portfolios and quite often think in very different business terms and have different resources behind them. I think, from our experience of engaging with those forums on things like increasing the awareness of what housing support grant is and how you might support people to maintain their tenancy and that sort of stuff, there's a real variation in people's enthusiasm for hearing those messages sometimes, and I think local authorities would need to be armed with the right evidence and information. But, even then, there's the question of what happens if landlords don't want to engage. They've got that ability as autonomous businesses not to do that. 

15:25

And is there a correlation, do you know, Matthew, between levels of engagement and then subsequently, if you like, the number of proprieties that are owned by private landlords that are brought up to certain standards, better standards, in terms of energy efficiency? Is that engagement working?

I haven't got that sense, I'm afraid. It's a good question, but I haven't got that information to hand, I'm afraid. 

Okay, thank you very much. Tom Giffard wants to come in and delve down a bit deeper into rural fuel poverty.

Yes. Thanks, Chair. I just wonder to what extent you both think the current programme reflects the needs of rural households that are fuel poor and whether there is any specific support that you feel should be made available to meet those challenges.

Dwi'n meddwl bod gweithio o fewn ardal wledig yn her yn ei hun. Mae'r tai yn dai unigol, efallai yn hŷn ac yn dipyn gwahanol i beth fuasech chi'n ei gael mewn tref neu hyd yn oed pentref. Felly, mae o'n anodd iawn targedu, ac efallai ei fod yn anodd cael cynllun sydd yn area based. So, felly, dyna lle mae angen gwaith pellach i'w weld, os ydy rhywun yn targedu fuel poverty, beth mae hynny'n ei olygu mewn ardal wledig. Achos mae yna gymaint o bethau wedyn yn effeithio ar berson sy'n byw mewn ardal wledig. Mae trafnidiaeth, mae mynediad i wasanaethau cyhoeddus i gyd yn dod i fewn iddo fo.

Felly, fel sir sydd yn gallu bod yn wledig yn Ynys Môn, ac wedi cael Arbed mewn ardal wledig, dwi'n meddwl y buasai fo'n deg i ddweud ei fod wedi bod yn her. Achos dydych chi ddim yn gwybod beth ydy oed yr adeilad tan eich bod chi'n mynd yno i'w weld o a gwneud asesiadau llawn ohono fo, nac ychwaith yn gwybod beth ydy arferion y person sy'n byw yna. Achos efallai fod arferion pobl mewn ardaloedd gwledig yn wahanol iawn i rywun sy'n byw mewn tref a sut maen nhw'n defnyddio eu cartref. Felly, mae yna heriau mawr, dwi'n meddwl, yn wynebu ardal wledig, ond eto mae yna fodd i weithio efo ardaloedd ac i weithio efo mudiadau wedyn i annog pobl i gymryd rhan.

I think working in a rural area is a challenge in and of itself. The houses may be individual properties, they may be older and very different to what you would find in a town or even in a village. So, it's very difficult to target this, and it's difficult to have an area-based approach. So, that's where we need further work to see, if one is targeting fuel poverty, what that would mean in a rural area. Because there are so many things that will impact an individual living in a rural area. Transport, access to public services—all of this is relevant here.

So, as a county that is part rural in Ynys Môn, and having had Arbed in place in a rural area, I think it's fair to say that it has been a challenge. Because you don't know the age of the property until you arrive and carry out full assessments, and you don't necessarily know what the habits of the individual living there might be. Because people's practices in rural areas might be very different to those living in urban areas and what use they make of their property. So, I think there are huge challenges facing rural areas, but there is a means to work with these areas and with other organisations to encourage people to participate.

Just to add to that really briefly, I think the additional operational issues around accessibility and availability of contractors and services, and essentially the potential for increased costs in those areas too, when we think about how the programme has maximum impact in rural settings, where you might need a greater level of financial intervention—. Our rural members, at the moment, when we look at supply chain issues, there is a real issue in rural areas where those costs are just so substantially higher and a real challenge around lowering the carbon footprint of activity generally.

Thank you. Coming back on those costs, I'm not expecting a specific figure, but I'm just wondering about the levels of additional funding that would be needed to bring some of those inefficient off-grid households to a more efficient standard.

I think, not that I'm—. This isn't our evidence, but certainly the report from Cardiff University, which looked at the rural narrative, along with a few other ones, suggested a capital cost of around £40,000 to £66,000 for upgrading homes in more rural areas. And that was based on substantial improvements to clean energy, for example, to infrastructure more generally. So, these things definitely go hand in hand.

We've just commissioned Sero, the future generations commissioner and a design collaborative to undertake a piece of research around improving how environmentally friendly the private rented sector is across Wales, and part of that's going to be looking at modelling of different housing archetypes in different areas and looking at things like costings and what that would look like and how you'd achieve different levels of improvement alongside the other aspect of improving household energy use. So, it's not overly useful right now, but we'll certainly have that report ready to go in May, and we'd certainly be able to share that in detail with the committee when it comes out. 

15:30

[Inaudible.]—an issue that we mentioned in an earlier session, which was around the fact that you're not eligible for Nest if you've got a business registered at the place where you live. Well, every farmer, nearly every farmer, will be living on the job, so that means none of those people have been eligible for support to tackle elderly properties, in the main, that are very difficult to heat. How much has that, Elliw, been an issue for your constituents?

Buaswn i'n dychmygu ei fod o, ac mae'n rhaid i mi gyfaddef, doeddwn i ddim wedi sylwi bod hynny'n amod o Nyth. Fel roeddwn i'n sôn, rydym ni'n hyrwyddo'r cynllun; rydym ni'n dweud ei fod o ar gael i bobl, ac unwaith maen nhw mewn wedyn yn y system, doedden ni ddim yn gwybod os oeddwn nhw'n cael eu taflu allan achos doedden nhw ddim yn cyrraedd y meini prawf. Felly, ydy, yn sicr, mae'n mynd i effeithio. 

I would imagine that it would be an issue. To be honest, I hadn't realised that that was a condition of Nest. As I mentioned, we promote the programme; we inform people of its availability, and, once they're in the system, then we don't know if they were unsuccessful because they didn't meet the criteria. So, certainly, it would have an impact. 

Okay. Thank you. Can I just hand back to Sarah Murphy now?

Thank you, both. Thank you, Chair. Just to dig in a little bit more about the equality and social justice considerations from your perspective. So, just to kick off, we heard earlier on that some people—. You know, you have these works done, but there's also a cost to having these works done. For example, maybe you have to have your living room redecorated after the work is done. So, what do you think about factoring that into the next programme to help address financial barriers to entry that some people might feel over that? If I could start with you, Elliw. 

Ie, dwi'n siŵr ei fod o wedi bod yn reit heriol i rai pobl gael mesurau, ac os ydy o—. Roeddwn i'n gweld ymateb un bod yn rhaid clirio ystafell neu rywbeth cyn i waith ddigwydd, ac, yn amlwg, mae yna effaith wedyn ar ôl i waith gymryd lle. Mi fuasai angen efallai ystyried hynny achos mae hynny wedyn yn annog y person i gymryd rhan, ond wedyn, os ydy rhywun yn byw mewn tŷ preifat, cyfrifoldeb pwy fydd o wedyn i beintio? Fuasech chi'n disgwyl i landlord fod yn gwneud hynny? Ac, felly, ydy'r anogaeth yn eistedd hefo'r landlord wedyn i fod yn peintio, neu ydych chi'n rhoi voucher i'r tenant, a'u bod nhw'n cael peintio fo wedyn fel maen nhw eisiau? Dwi'n meddwl bod yna lot o permutations mewn rhywbeth felly. Ac mae'n rhaid mynd â'r person drwy'r broses hefyd, a dweud beth sydd ar gael a beth sydd ddim ar gael. Mae hefyd dweud beth dydych chi ddim yn gallu ei wneud yr un mor bwysig â dweud beth rydych chi'n gallu ei wneud. 

Yes, I'm sure it could have been quite challenging for some people, and if it is—. I saw one response that a room had to be cleared before works could happen, and then, clearly, there are impacts once that work is done. That should perhaps be considered because it would encourage more people to participate, but, if one is living in a private household, whose responsibility would it be to decorate? Would you expect a landlord to do that? And is there then an incentive for the landlord to do that painting, or do you give the tenant a voucher, and then they can decorate as they would like? There are many different permutations to that kind of approach. And you would have to take that individual through the process and explain what's available and what isn't available. So, informing people of what they can't do is just as important as telling them what they can do. 

Thank you. That's really interesting, yes. Matthew, what do you think?

Yes, I've nothing to add. I would agree with Elliw. I think defining those roles and responsibilities for that process would be really important.

Brilliant. Thank you. And also would you—? I know we've touched on it a little bit including the rural, but could you just share any other examples that you've seen, where you think that certain types of homes are not being supported under the current schemes, and also how you think any successor schemes could better advance equality and social justice? I'll come to you first this time, Matthew. 

It's a really good question. I think, in terms of the equality and social justice angle, one of the things we put in our evidence was around that we're really passionate about introducing a right to adequate housing in Wales. We think it's absolutely vital, and we could be a leader in the world in how this looks in practice. And there's nothing holding us back from that. And I think we were really welcoming of that, in the Welsh Labour-Plaid Cymru co-operation agreement, that took centre stage from a housing perspective and a commitment to a White Paper within that. And I think the way this links to what we're looking at today is: when we think about adequacy, what does that mean in practice? How does it play out in the letter of the law and in people's homes? What does 'adequate' mean to us? And I'm sure we'd all agree that it would mean a well-heated, efficient home that not only heats well but also cools well and copes with the rigours of the weather more generally. So, I think that is one of the ways in which we'd want to see some of the inequalities in the housing system looked at more generally. 

I think it's also about looking at how fuel poverty impacts on other rights that we look at really regularly, like the rights of the child, for example. There's a real opportunity to have some crossover, looking at the positive effect as well as the more negative aspects of that as well, recognising that there are deep inequalities resting within all of this. When we think about the cross-tenure angle, where, in the private rented sector, single mothers are more likely to live there, and young carers, asylum seekers, refugees—there's a real range of people who are going to be more negatively affected by potential work not being done, and some of those homes are going to be left behind, and these people are sometimes the most marginalised within society. So, I think it's absolutely right that we have quite a sharp and determined focus on this, and, certainly when we think about the operational delivery of any future programme—that monitoring, reporting, data collection—that there's at least an emphasis on this, even though I know it's always difficult in practice to get that granular information, but organisations and services need to have a pretty sharp focus on this as a priority.

15:35

Thank you so much. Elliw, did you want to come in on this as well?

Ie, jest ychydig o bwyntiau o ran yr ochr ymarferol. Fel roeddwn i'n sôn, os ydy rhywun yn cael ei gyfeirio mewn i Nyth gan y cyngor, dydyn ni ddim yn gwybod beth ydy allbwn hynny wedyn. Felly, dydyn ni ddim yn gwybod beth sy'n digwydd, mewn ffordd. Ac Arbed yr un fath—weithiau roeddem ni ddim ond yn cael gwybod os oedd rhywun ddim yn rhan o gynllun, ac roedden nhw'n dod atom ni, eisiau gwybod pam nad oedden nhw'n rhan o gynllun. Wel, eto, doedden ni ddim yn gwybod pam nad oedden nhw'n gallu bod. Ac os ydych chi'n edrych arno fo o social justice perspective, fel roeddem ni'n sôn gynnau, mae tai preifat yn cael eu heffeithio fwyaf, ac weithiau does gan berson ddim dewis ond rhentu, oherwydd eu sefyllfa nhw, ac felly, by default, maen nhw am fod efallai mewn tai israddol, sydd am fod yn oerach, heb yr incwm yna i allu eu cefnogi nhw. Ac fel roedd Matt yn sôn, efallai fod asylum seekersrefugees, pobl ar incwm is yn tueddu i fynd wedyn i'r sector breifat achos nad ydy tai cymdeithasol neu brynu tŷ yn opsiwn ar y pryd.

Yes, just a few points in terms of the practicalities. As I mentioned, if someone is referred to Nest by the council, we don't know what the outcome of that is, and therefore we don't know what happens, in a way. And likewise with Arbed, sometimes we were only informed if somebody wasn't part of a scheme, and they would approach us and ask us why. But we didn't know why they weren't included. And if you look at it from a social justice perspective, as I mentioned earlier, private rented accommodation is sometimes worst affected, and people might have no choice but to rent. And therefore, by default, they will be in lower quality housing, which will be colder, and they won't have that income. And as Matt mentioned, perhaps asylum seekers, refugees, those on lower incomes tend to go into the private sector because social housing or purchasing a home isn't an option for them at that time.

Ken Skates, you had some further questions on how we're going to shape the next programme.

Thanks, Chair. First of all, I'd welcome any views on whether the successor programme or programmes should operate separately, or whether there should be one programme that can cover all strands of the work that needs to be carried out in terms of decarbonisation, energy insulation and tackling fuel poverty. Who would like to go first—if either of you do have a view on whether there should be one programme, or perhaps two working in a parallel, complementary way?

I think it depends on what the purpose of the programme is to some extent. So, I think decarbonisation and fuel poverty can go hand in hand, but they don't always. We know that for sure. We know that plenty of people could be in fuel poverty but living in quite efficient homes. There are all sorts of good case studies around. When you create a passive home, for example, if people don't use them correctly, energy bills are much higher than expected. So, I think, to some extent, it depends on what the intention of the scheme is in the first place. I think the risk with creating more than one programme is the message could be diluted and difficult, certainly, to market and understand two schemes. When we think if the overall aim is to make sure the public really understand and grasp what the scheme is aimed at, having one overall brand, to me, feels really sensible. And actually, having some clear messaging under that would just enhance that in practice. But I think that does require careful thought. I'm on the fence a little bit because I can see it both ways, to some extent.

Yes, definitely. For what it's worth, I think a single scheme probably makes sense, but with very clear strands—having that single gateway for entry into enquiries, and then for the professionals to be able to deal with those enquiries, rather than expect the customer to know the entire system and then to navigate through various programmes. Any other views? A counter-view at all? No. Okay. Thank you.

In terms of the move towards greener technologies, could a successor programme or programmes be utilised to promote new and emerging green technologies as well as, obviously, focusing on dealing with fuel poverty?

15:40

Ie, dwi'n credu y buasai hynny'n gallu gweithio, ond beth fydd yn rhaid cydnabod ydy y bydd y costau'n uwch, ac felly efallai fydd nifer y mesurau sy'n cael eu rhoi i mewn yn llai, felly. Roedden ni'n sôn gynnau am beth ydy'r gost o wneud gwaith mewn ardal wledig, a hynny, efallai, ar fesurau rŵan; dŷn ni ddim yn sôn am air-source heat pumps a phob math o fesurau i'r dyfodol. Felly, mi fydd y gost yn llawer iawn uwch.

Yes, I think that certainly could work, but what we'll have to recognise is that the costs will be higher, and therefore the amount of support provided may be less. We mentioned earlier the cost of working in rural areas, based on current measures; we're not talking there of air-source heat pumps and other future measures. So, the costs will be a lot higher.

I think, for me, there's too much crossover there with the optimised retrofit programme. I think that that, as a programme, is intended to test and trial and look at new ways, asking, 'If you were to walk up to a house, how would you make this home more efficient?' We've got to look at expanding the learning from that into the private rented sector and to householders as well. Obviously, I understand why the priorities are there around social housing and completely support that, really, in practice. But as we go forward, unless that learning is disseminated more widely and it's understood how we apply it more widely, there's a greater risk that we'll create increased gulfs between people living in different types of homes and different tenures, and we don't want that; we want that learning, that good technical understanding and expertise to be shared really well and I'm not convinced that doing it through the Warm Homes programme in a different kind of guise is completely sensible. I think it's always worth thinking about, within the programme and its operations, at what stages do different things happen and those things won't always go hand in hand. So, I mean, you might look to do a boiler change more than once between now and 2050, for example, but you might only want to do substantial work to the structure of the home once. So, sometimes it's around timeliness and that sort of thing, too. And that kind of learning is already being well engrained in the ORP itself. So, it's not just around the methods, but around how you apply them over a lifespan and what the timeliness looks like, to reduce disruption to occupants and make sure that we have maximum effect from what we put into the homes in the first place. So, there'd be no point doing a fabric-first approach, looking at insulation, unless you also look at the roof, for example, but it would be fine to do that if you didn't also look at the boilers, if that makes sense.

Absolutely, yes. I'm just going to ask really briefly whether you would agree that we don't have sufficient numbers of people with the right skills to be able to deliver a future programme at present. If so, what needs to be done in order to develop that pipeline of skilled people ready to take advantage of this area of work? It may not be something that either of you have really considered in great detail. I'm thinking in particular of the regional skills partnerships. Do they reflect in their plans the need to increase the workforce in this area?

We're waiting on the detail of the net-zero plan—I can't remember its exact name—that the regional skills partnerships have looked at and gone out to industry and spoken about. So, we'll be interested in the learning from that. I guess, one of the things we've spoken about a lot as an organisation is a workforce strategy for the sector, which is that but in a different kind of guise.

When we speak to our members, we know that there's a real challenge around skills, which is actually being able to look at what kind of new methods are coming out and what is the shelf life for those skills. So, if people were to be trained, how long would that training remain relevant for? It's also about what technology and what level of investment to make in the workforce. It's really testing. And I guess, today, I'm reflecting more from a housing association angle, but when you think about life out in the industry or within private sector development, that's probably even more challenging in and of itself. So, I think what we do need is some good forward thinking around what kinds of sources of technology we're going to use more regularly and why, and having a real planned approach to training the workforce around that through good, solid apprenticeships. Because one of the downfalls with the existing programme has been that businesses have been encouraged to look at things like apprenticeships and haven't had certainty around the business or the level of activity or what they could expect in return, and therefore, perhaps understandably, have been resistant of taking that on board in really meaningful ways. So, I appreciate that that, sometimes, isn't easy to do in practice, but there needs to be a more solid way to give businesses that reassurance, so that there's a more, I guess, grass-roots approach to developing that expertise at a real local level.

15:45

Thank you very much. Thank you very much to Elliw Llyr and Matthew Kennedy. We will send you a transcript of your contributions, and if there's anything that has been misheard or misinterpreted from what you've said, please do use that opportunity to correct the transcript. And we'd like to thank you very much indeed, both of you, for your contributions—both really useful contributions. Thank you very much indeed.

Thank you. Diolch yn fawr.

4. Papurau i’w nodi
4. Papers to note

And finally, the last item on the public agenda is to note the correspondence we've had from the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, which was the letter she shared that she'd written to the Minister for Social Justice on the budget that she thinks that her office requires. So, are you happy to note that paper? Thank you very much.

5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) ac (ix)

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

I'd now like to suggest we move into private session. So, I wondered if the sound operator could let us know once we are in private session.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 15:46.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 15:46.