RECHARGE: Renewing electrical safety for Northern Ireland’s homes.
Our ‘Recharge’ report investigates the level of electrical risk in Northern Ireland’s homes with a particular focus on the most vulnerable, especially older and disabled people, and those living in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). This emphasis is due to the growth of the PRS and its changing composition – as an increasing number of low-paid families and disabled and vulnerable people are now private renters.
- During 2019, 58% of all accidental fires in homes were caused by an electrical source. These fires resulted in one death and 128 people being injured.
- Between 2016-2019, 19 people died in domestic fires in Northern Ireland. Of these, 90% were aged over 50.
- Independent research suggests that there would be nearly £9 million worth of savings to society annually if electrical hazards in Northern Ireland’s housing stock were mitigated.
- The majority (78%) of older people live in the owner-occupied sector and many live in homes built before 1945.These homes are most likely to contain Category 1 hazards – those which are deemed to pose a potential safety threat to a person or property. Older homes also tend to have older electrical installations, thereby raising electrical risk.
- The PRS is rapidly expanding, with PRS accounting for 17% of the total housing stock, which means that ensuring safety in this sector is increasingly important. When compared with Scotland and England, there is currently limited protection for private renters. Most pertinently, elsewhere in the UK, five-yearly electrical checks are now mandatory – but this is not yet the case in Northern Ireland.
The ‘Recharge’ report has a range of recommendations for policy makers and those working in the housing, disability and ageing sectors which would help reduce electrical risks. These include:
- The Executive should establish a working group comprised of key government departments, bodies and other relevant organisations to develop an effective strategy for electrical safety.
- An All Party Group on home electrical safety should be established in the Assembly. This would offer a forum for MLAs and stakeholders to discuss – and help address – key electrical safety concerns.
- The Housing Fitness Standard should be updated to enhance electrical safety across all housing tenures. We recommend the Department for Communities adopts the Healthy Home Rating System (HHRS) model, which examines a property for various safety hazards, including electrical faults.
- Legislation establishing a mandatory requirement for private landlords to undertake electrical inspections on a minimum five-yearly cycle is needed. This approach should also be introduced in the social housing sector to ensure parity for all renters.
We have produced a series of snapshot briefings covering specific issues highlighted in the report which are available on this page. If you would like to discuss this work with us, please contact Wayne Mackay, Public Affairs Manager, Northern Ireland and Scotland, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07565614410.