Beyond STAR: Energy and Skills Evaluation in Tenant Surveys

The Birmingham Post (England), September 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

Beyond STAR: Energy and Skills Evaluation in Tenant Surveys


STAR surveys and 'tracker' service satisfaction studies have become commonplace tools for social housing providers to check how tenants view their traditional landlord services. However, a new initiative jointly being promoted by M-E-L Research and the Centre for Community Research (CFCR), is seeking to expand the scope of tenant surveys too.

STAR and its predecessor the STATUS survey has always contained a batch of questions on tenant perceptions of the wider local environmental quality issues on estates. Questions range from perceptions of dumped rubbish and graffiti, to dog fouling and anti-social behaviour. The financial status of tenants is also frequently included as a vehicle to identify segments of tenants with needs for financial support through credit unions and low-interest lending.

Energy and Skills Two new themes are rapidly emerging however, where social research data can help housing providers to support tenants facing the increasing hardship from tighter welfare and benefit criteria.

These are skills for employment, and home energy bills.

M-E-L Research has recently been engaged in developing survey questions which start to explore these issues. Research on low energy behaviours is a key vehicle in responding to fuel poverty, and a recent survey for Liverpool Housing Trust has examined tenants' home energy behaviours to see what might be done to help people use energy in ways that are cheaper, and also reduce overall energy consumption - with consequent climate change benefits.

Jack Harper - the project officer at M-E-L Research who is leading this work - said: "This small piece of research is an exciting new venture that is paving the way for a rapidly-emerging role for social housing providers in helping tenants save money and reduce the domestic energy carbon footprint".

DECC Support The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has also shown an increased interest in the potential for work in this field. A range of pilot projects is about to get under way in which the introduction of 'smart meters' (devices that show a householder how much energy their household is consuming) is accompanied by community projects showing householders how to adapt their energy behaviours to reduce both energy use and fuel costs. A number of social providers are involved along with community energy consultants, to road-test a range of pilot schemes over the coming months.

DECC has now appointed M-E-L Research as the national evaluation contractor for these smart meter pilots, and the opportunity to tackle fuel poverty through more effective home energy behaviours will form an important element of this evaluation.

Up-Skilling On the second theme of skills for employment, there is a longer established set of fairly standardised questions that have been developed over some years, to profile the status and suitability of an individual potential employee for the labour market. This includes intermediate personal and household skills and transferrable life skills, as well as the more traditional workplace-based skills audit questions.

These batteries of social research questions are of increasing interest and relevance to social housing providers who are looking to develop a powerful intermediary role in assisting their tenants in finding work, or skilling up and re-profiling their skills to meet changing local labour force requirements.

A Community Team M-E-L Research has teamed up with social initiative CFCR - working out of its Birmingham-based independent third sector community research base - to create a validated batch of profiling questions. …

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