The Dorset Community Foundation is marking the tenth anniversary of its Surviving Winter Appeal by asking more people than ever to help hundreds of elderly and vulnerable people stay warm this winter.
The appeal, which has raised more than £250,000 and helped hundreds of people since its launch, wants people in Dorset to donate their £200 Winter Fuel payment to the appeal if they don’t need it, so it can be ‘recycled’ to some of the estimated 19,000 people in the county who cannot afford to keep their homes warm during the coldest months.
The charity fears that the pandemic will force even more people into fuel poverty, keep more older people indoors and will have hit the finances of community groups who might otherwise have been able to support them.
The most recent figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed 730 people in Dorset die each year of cold-related illness, a 40 per cent increase on the previous figure. The majority of people who suffer premature winter-related death are over 65, and 75 per cent of these deaths are due to the impact the cold has on respiratory and circulatory conditions.
Dorset Community Foundation chief executive Grant Robson said: “Over the last decade we have been amazed and humbled by the generosity of the people of this county but in a year when Covid-19 has made life more difficult and uncertain for everyone, the need for this appeal is greater than ever.
“Because of the pandemic, vulnerable people are staying indoors for longer because they are unable to visit family or friends and the clubs that would have given them some respite won’t be running.”
A report by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy last year found there are 19,000 households in Dorset are living in fuel poverty – almost one in ten – which means they cannot afford to heat their home properly in winter.
Colin Coop, of Dorchester, received a £200 grant from the appeal last year. The pensioner, who suffers from bronchitis, said he could only afford to run an electric fan heater for two hours a day and have his hot water on for two weeks of the month before he received the grant. He said: “I couldn’t keep my clothing clean because I didn’t have the hot water to wash them.”
Grants of £200 are given to recipients via Citizens Advice to people over 60 in fuel poverty or to those 50 and over who meet the winter fuel poverty criteria, which includes significant health conditions, are on the highest level of benefits or have little current chance of improving their life circumstances.
Mr Robson said: “It is shocking to think that there will be people this winter facing the choice between heating and eating because they just can’t afford both. Older people are terrified of bills mounting up and would rather go without the vital nourishment they need than face a bill that they can’t pay.
“It’s well known that poor nourishment only makes existing conditions like respiratory illness worse and, with the NHS under more pressure than ever before, this is not a time that people want to be going into hospital. By donating their Winter Fuel payment, people could literally save someone’s life.”
Donate HERE or by sending cheques, made payable to Dorset Community Foundation, to The Spire, High Street, Poole, BH15 1DF.