DORSET Community Foundation’s 2021/22 Surviving Winter campaign will once again be helping older people and those with disabilities living in fuel poverty to stay warm over the coldest months.
With rising fuel costs and increased cost of living squeezing those on low incomes harder than ever we feel it is more important than ever to help prevent the deaths of hundreds of elderly people through cold-related illness.
Surviving Winter, which broke all records in raising £102,000 last year, and has raised more than £350,000 and helped thousands of people since its launch 11 years ago, wants people in Dorset to donate their Winter Fuel Payment 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 most recent figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed 730 people in the county 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.
We will working in partnership with Citizens Advice East Dorset & Purbeck, which assesses applicants who are referred or come to it with other inquries but are identified as being at risk from fuel poverty. It distributes grants of £200 towards heating bills and assists with energy advuce.
Project officer Kate Pryce said: “We are genuinely worried this winter about the increase in people coming to us because of the rise in fuel prices as well as the cut in Universal Credit, which will affect some older people. One of the ways we are able to help people is to help get them on a cheaper tariff but with so emany smaller energy companies going out of business those cheaper tariffs are just not available.
“We are just very thankful that Dorset Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter campaign is there to help. Last year so much was raised we were able to continue giving grants right up until April.”
We are just very thankful that Dorset Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter campaign is there to help
A report by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy last year found there are 19,000 households in Dorset – almost one in ten – living in fuel poverty, which means they cannot afford to heat their home properly in winter.
Living in cold homes can also worsen mental health issues, as can the anxiety caused by mounting fuel bills. Older people are more likely to worry about being unable to pay a bill and subsequently skip meals or eat cheaper and less nutritious meals to save money.
Dorset Community Foundation chief executive Grant Robson said: “It’s a vicious circle because reducing your calorie intake is disastrous for older people. Malnutrition and weight loss just means they feel the cold more so they need the heating on more often and their bills get higher.”
Grants of £200 are given 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.
Citizens Advice advisors can also support clients by signposting other benefits, such as Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payments that may help them, as well sharing guidance on making the most of their heating, improving insulation and eating better. The charity works with agencies such as social services, Age UK and other charities to identify people at risk who are living in fuel poverty.
Mr Robson said: “We are really pleased to be working with Citizens Advice because they are able to provide real and practical help when they find people at risk.
“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. Because 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.
“Over the last decade we have been amazed and humbled by the generosity of the people of this county but at a time when life is more difficult and uncertain for everyone, the need for this appeal is greater than ever. By donating their Winter Fuel payment, people could literally save someone’s life.”
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