The Wiltshire Community Foundation is launching a £90,000 appeal to help keep hundreds of elderly people warm and save lives this winter.
The Surviving Winter campaign, which has been running since 2010, will this year be funding partners Age UK, Warm and Safe Wiltshire and both Swindon and Wiltshire Citizens Advice Bureaux so they can provide hot meals, energy bill vouchers, boiler repairs and servicing and essential energy-saving and benefits advice.
Last year the appeal raised £90,000 and helped 300 people through direct grants, but by working closer with its partners this year, the community foundation hopes to help at least 900.
Research by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy last year revealed there are more than 30,000 households in Wiltshire and Swindon - almost one in ten homes - living in fuel poverty, meaning they cannot afford to heat their home properly through the coldest months of the year.
NHS statistics show that that up to 400 people in Wiltshire and Swindon die each year simply because they cannot afford to heat their homes. 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.
Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said the foundation is asking people in receipt of a £200 government Winter Fuel Payment to donate it to the appeal if they don’t need it themselves. She said: “This winter is going to be extremely hard for older people.
“Because of Covid and the lockdown older people will be forced to stay at home more, unable to visit family or friends to get a hot meal, warmth and some company. Many of the clubs and organisations that may also have helped them have had to temporarily close as well. Without this vital support we will hear of more people having to make the harrowing choice between eating well and heating their home.”
As well as providing energy grants and boiler service or repair, Age UK will offer free trials of its door-to-door hot meals service and also encourage people to take part in clubs and activities once they are up and running after lockdown by paying for taxis to take them.
Warm and Safe Wiltshire, which works with Wiltshire Council, Swindon Borough Council and Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, will also distribute energy vouchers and arrange for boilers to be repaired or serviced. It will also use its trained advisors to pass on tips on keeping homes warm and lowering bills through its free advice phone line.
Wiltshire and Swindon Citizens Advice Bureaux will use funding from the appeal to pay for extra training and advisor time to help clients with claims for energy grants. “This funding will support additional paid advice to help clients with completion of applications, initially using a variety of digital channels including phone, email, webchat and video,” said Wiltshire’s chief executive Suzanne Wigmore.
Since 2010 the Surviving Winter campaign has distributed almost £600,00 to more than 1,800 households. Mrs Oliver said: “We are inspired and humbled by the generosity of our supporters and send our sincere thanks to everyone who has given to help others at this very challenging time. Our Surviving Winter campaign provides vital support and is also an easy way for people to redirect their Winter Fuel Payment from the government if they don’t need it.
“It’s well known that poor nourishment only makes existing conditions like respiratory illness worse. This winter the NHS will be under more pressure than ever before and no one wants to see older people going into hospital. By supporting our Surviving Winter campaign, you could literally be saving someone’s life.”
To donate to Surviving Winter go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.