Energy Company Obligation – Affordable Warmth Flexible Eligibility Criteria

Published 7th January 2021 An accessible document from

South Tyneside Council Statement of Intent

Date Published
7th January 2021
Signed by
George Mansbridge (Corporate Director Regeneration and Environment)

Background and Introduction

The Energy Company Obligation (ECO3) is a Government Energy Efficiency scheme in the UK designed to help reduce carbon emissions and tackle fuel poverty.

One element of ECO3 allows Local Authorities to refer private households to suppliers for support, particularly households in fuel poverty, on a low income and vulnerable to the effects of a cold home. This is referred to as the ‘Help to Heat Flexible Eligibility Criteria’ or ‘ECO Flex’. Local Authorities undertaking to refer households under the scheme are obliged to publish a Statement of Intent setting out eligibility for this element of the funding, and sign a declaration confirming they have been consulted on the eligibility and installation of measures.

South Tyneside Council intends to use ECO Flex eligibility for the purposes of reducing levels of Fuel Poverty, carbon emissions and cold-related ill health in South Tyneside by addressing the energy efficiency of the property. ECO Flex is aimed at households that fall outside the ECO3 Affordable Warmth criteria and are, or are at risk, of being in fuel poverty.

South Tyneside is amongst one of the most deprived areas in England.Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD2019) rank South Tyneside as the 26th most deprived out of 317 local authorities. There are approximately 67,000 homes in South Tyneside, with approximately 46,000 of these in the private sector. The Private Rented Sector is estimated to contain between 6,500 and 7,000 dwellings.

The South Tyneside Council Strategy commits to improving the health and wellbeing of all South Tyneside residents. The Joint Strategic Needs and Assets Assessment (JSNAA) topic ‘Wider Determinants in Housing‘ identifies fuel efficient housing as being a high level priority for the current and future health and wellbeing needs of residents.

Additional Services and Support

Priority Services Register

The Priority Services Register run by energy suppliers and distributors are key supporting structures that offer extra free services to people who are of pensionable age, are registered disabled, have a hearing or visual impairment, or have a long term health condition.

Local Energy Advice Partnership (LEAP)

South Tyneside Groundwork Trust together with Agility ECO has developed a Local Energy Advice Partnership and can assist all tenures with energy efficiency and energy switching advice. The partnership can also support households with free energy saving devices. Where possible, customers will be matched with any ECO or other energy efficiency financial assistance including ECO Flex.

Disabled Facilities Grants

Adult Social Care may award disabled facilities grants; this allows living aids and adaptations to a disabled person’s property so that they can remain in their own home.

Other Support Agencies

South Tyneside’s Welfare Support team, as well as other crucial support agencies such as Citizens Advice and Age Concern Tyneside South, can offer assistance to residents on low incomes to ensure benefit entitlement is maximised. Not only can this result in increased household income but also access to ECO 3 ‘passport benefits’, thereby retaining ECO Flex funds for those most in need.

How South Tyneside intends to identify eligible households

All private tenure households are considered eligible for ECO Flex if they are deemed at risk of fuel poverty due to low income and live in an area of high overall deprivation. Eligible households will also include those on a low income with at least one household member vulnerable to the effects of living in a cold home due to health issues or being in a vulnerable age group.

These households that may benefit from ECO Flex will be identified in a number of ways and efforts will be made to target those most in need by;

  • Using Government and South Tyneside Council data, (where possible and subject to data protection restrictions), to identify those living in the private sector and in receipt of the relevant benefits and/or on a low household income;
  • Informing partner agencies and stakeholders of the ECO Flex scheme;
  • Working with the LEAP to identify and assist residents;
  • Identifying Low income households living in energy inefficient housing in the private sector through enforcement activity under the Housing Act 2004.

Criteria for identifying households in Fuel Poverty

Priority Areas

All private tenure properties within South Tyneside that are in the areas with the highest fuel poverty or the 20% most deprived areas of the UK (measured by the Government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD2019) with a household income of less than £32,000 who will be deemed at risk of living in Fuel Poverty.

Low Income, Households deemed to be in fuel poverty [Low Income High Fuel costs (LIHC)]

Households not in a Priority area will be eligible if they are in receipt of a gross annual household income of less than £32,000 (including all household income and benefits) with high fuel costs (EPC bands, D, E, F, G +).

Low Income and Vulnerability

Low Income and Vulnerable to Cold - Health Conditions (LIVC(a))

Households will be considered a low income household, and vulnerable to the effects of living in a cold home, if they have a household income of less than £32,000 and someone in the household meets one of the ‘Health and Vulnerability’ criteria detailed below:

Health and Vulnerability

A wide range of people are vulnerable to the cold, this could be because of a medical condition, such as heart disease; disability that limits or prevents movement to help keep warm; illness that increases the likelihood of the development of chest infections, or vulnerability due to personal circumstances, such as age, which affects the ability to keep warm.

Studies indicate that a cold home can exacerbate existing medical conditions including, but not limited to;

  • Stroke;
  • Heart conditions, angina, heart attack;
  • diabetes;
  • respiratory conditions; COPD, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia;
  • Mobility problems, arthritis, certain types of ulcers and musculoskeletal pains;
  • mental health;
  • Life-limiting conditions;
  • Disability, physical or severe learning
  • In addition, cold homes may slow down recovery following discharge from hospital.

Referrals that are made for those with medical conditions exacerbated by a cold home will need to be supported by documentary evidence from a medical professional.

Low Income and Vulnerable to the Cold Age criteria (LIVC (b))

Those people in vulnerable age groups are at risk of social and health inequalities due to living in a cold home and on a household income of less than £32,000, those aged over 65 years of age, pregnant women or households with children under the age of 16 are deemed most at risk.

The energy company or their nominated contractor will be required to ensure that all eligible households fully comply with one of the above criteria summarised in Table 1 below.

Table 1 – Summary of Eligibility Criteria
Criteria Definition
Priority Area Priority Area Living in a priority area on a household income of less than £32,000
LIHC (low income/high fuel costs) Low Income and high fuel costs not in a priority area Gross annual household income of less than £32,000 with high fuel costs deemed to be in fuel poverty EPC D to G + and not in a priority area
LIVC(a) (low income vulnerable to cold) – health condition Income of less than £32,000 and vulnerable to cold due to illness One or more members of the household suffer a health condition made worse by living in a cold home.
LIVC(b) (low income vulnerable to cold) – age criteria Income less than £32,000 and vulnerable to the cold due to age One or more members of the household is aged over 65 years and/or is a child under the age of 16 or a member of the household is pregnant

Exceptional Circumstances

South Tyneside Council reserves the right to approve applications that may fall just outside the criteria as set out within the Statement of Intent but where the resident is showing a clear need for assistance, i.e. where a member of the household is awaiting discharge from hospital or where there are issues associated with outstanding debts.

Other households that may be considered on referral from a professional organisation are;

  • people with addictions;
  • people who have attended hospital due to a fall;
  • recent immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees;
  • people who move in and out of homelessness;
  • households that are falling into debt due to a change in circumstances compounded by high energy costs;
  • Others to be specified by the Council

These households will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and if a decision is made to assist, a detailed explanation of why an exceptional circumstances referral has been granted will be recorded.

Scheme requirements for Solid Wall Insulation (SWI) “In-fill” projects

The Council may facilitate solid wall insulation schemes including for households that are not in Fuel Poverty or vulnerable (“In-fill”). ECO Flex eligibility applies to private tenure only; therefore all the properties on a declaration, including In-fill, must be private tenure.

Outside priority areas outlined in paragraph 4.1, where a household does not meet the criteria for fuel poverty outlined in para 4.2, or living on a low income and vulnerable to the cold outlined in para 4.3(a) and (b), the local authority can declare a household as “In-fill” where they are:

  • in the same terrace;
  • in an immediately adjacent building to, or
  • are in the same building as a household that does not meet those criteria

In-fill is only allowed where a minimum percentage of households for which the local authority is providing declarations, are Fuel Poor (LIHC) or on a low income and vulnerable to the cold (LIVC), as set out in Table 2.

Not all the properties in one terrace need to be included in the SWI project in order for the project to be eligible under flexible eligibility.

Table 2 – Summary of the requirements for property types for in-fill projects
Property Type Local Authority (LA) declaration requirements In-fill available
Project consisting of a pair or semi-detached houses or bungalows, or a building containing no more than two domestic premises At least one of the two properties must be declared by the LA as LIHC fuel poor or LIVC (i.e. 50% of the properties are LIHC or LIVC). The other property to which it is directly adjoined is eligible for solid wall insulation.
Project consisting of any premises that are contained in the same building (e.g. flats), immediately adjacent buildings (e.g. neighbouring detached properties) or in the same terrace. At least two in three properties on the list must be declared by the LA as LIHC fuel poor or LIVC (i.e. 66% of the properties are LIHC or LIVC). The other (i.e. up to one third) of properties in the project are eligible for solid wall insulation, provided they are either in the same building, an immediately adjacent building or in the same terrace as the ones identified as LIHC or LIVC

Acting on behalf of another Local Authority

South Tyneside Council is not acting on behalf of any other Local Authority and will not be issuing a Joint Statement of Intent.


The Operations Manager Environmental Health (or equivalent) will be responsible for signing declarations on behalf of South Tyneside Council and in their absence this will be delegated to an Environmental Health Technical Officer (Fuel Poverty).

Where an applicant disputes the decision of the local authority in respect of them not qualifying under ECO Flex, this will be reviewed by the Head of Service.

NOTE: Any Declaration of Eligibility issued by the Council is not a guarantee that the eligibility criteria have been met or that funding is available. The final decision on ECO Flex rests entirely with the obligated Energy Supply Company and their appointed contractor(s). This decision will be based upon the information provided to the Energy Supply Company by the client household at the time of survey and will depend upon:

  • The survey carried out and the installation cost calculated;
  • The energy savings that can be achieved for a property, and;
  • Whether suppliers have achieved their ECO3 targets or require further measures to meet their ECO3 targets (this will affect the amount of funding available through the scheme).

South Tyneside Council will not be providing any additional funding for ECO Flex measures. The approach to ECO Flex (outlined above) will maximise the potential reach of available ECO3 funding.


Referrals are welcomed from any professional organisation that may come into contact with fuel poor or vulnerable households, examples include; Local authority officers and/or elected Members, LEAP, social workers, health visitors, occupational therapists, GP’s, the Fire Service, Citizens Advice, Age Concern Tyneside South and energy companies.


ECO Installers wishing to obtain a Declaration for the first time must contact South Tyneside Council to discuss the arrangements of the scheme; all enquiries should be directed to the contact officers noted at the end of this document.

Installers should be transparent about methods of referral generation, have a proven record of excellent customer care and provide a reference and/or signed confirmation from their ECO Supplier Company confirming they have access to relevant ECO funding.

ECO installers will be required to provide progress updates (at an agreed frequency, but as a minimum, on a quarterly basis) on the receipt of measures by households for whom Declarations have been provided.

The Council will require the energy company or their appointed contractor or agent to enter into a data sharing agreement with the Council and adhere to a code of conduct. The Council also reserves the right to reject referrals not in accordance with agreed arrangements.

Evidence, monitoring and reporting

The Council’s Environmental Health service will be responsible for keeping records of all applications received.

It will be the responsibility of the energy company or their nominated contractor to ensure that applicants meet the eligibility criteria, and for obtaining evidence of the applicants’ eligibility.

South Tyneside Council will collect the following information:

  • Number of households included on declarations, broken down by eligibility type;
  • Number of households in receipt of measures, by type (provided by suppliers);
  • Number of households ineligible following declaration and reason why (provided by suppliers);
  • Details of suppliers and installers working with the local authority;
  • Any additional funding provided in conjunction with ECO Flex.

All applications will be recorded on a secure system and information will be shared in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and General Data Protection Regulations. It will be the responsibility of the energy company or their nominated contractor to obtain the necessary consent from applicants to share their personal data.

Contact Officers

Debra Ralph (Technical Officer, Environmental Health)
0191 4247902
Joanne Smith (Housing Standards Officer, Environmental Health)
0191 4246653
Joanne Chastney (Operations Manager, Environmental Health
0191 4247937