I always find it hard to adapt to the clocks changing, so here I am at 5.30 am on a November evening wondering how it can have got so dark so soon. It’s also getting cold, but all I have to do is get up from my laptop, walk a few steps, and press the switch that brings the gas central heating on a bit earlier than programmed. In about 20 minutes I’ll be warm and cosy.
It’s therefore, shocking to know that the option to put the heating on early is simply not there for many older people in Dorset. They might be living in an ageing park home with poor insulation, or a house without central heating, or trying to make the oil in the tank last because a fill-up costs so much in one go. There are a number of people over 60 living on very modest incomes and with high heating costs – the ones we say are in ‘fuel poverty’. It’s astonishing that there were over 300 ‘preventable’ deaths in Dorset last year that were a result of people getting cold. Can that really happen in the 21st century when for some people switching on their heating via their smart phone when they are en route home is becoming a norm?
That’s why I am so pleased that for the fourth year running Citizens Advice in Dorset is working with Dorset Community Foundation to give out Surviving Winter grants to vulnerable people. We can identify those people over 60 who are really struggling to keep warm and give them an extra £200 towards their fuel bills. They tell us things like ‘I don’t have to keep my coat on all day now’ or ‘I can have two bars on my electric on, not just one’…… Last year we gave out 80 grants and people were not just warmer, but were not so worried about how they would cope with the bills.
So if you are able to keep your home warm without worrying, please can you donate your Winter Fuel Payment to this good cause. It really makes a difference – sometimes between life and death.
To donate to our Surviving Winter Appeal, please click here.