Nearly 300 vulnerable people died in Wiltshire & Swindon last winter from causes directly attributable to the cold. To blame is a combination of poor living conditions, bad diet and circulatory or respiratory diseases, which are worsened by the cold. Falls – on ice or wet surfaces – compound the problem. And rural isolation exacerbates the situation even further.
In an innovative Surviving Winter Appeal, the Community Foundation for Wiltshire & Swindon is asking people of all ages to show their support for those in need. In particular they are calling on all who can afford it to forego the Winter Fuel Payment (WFP) paid to the over 60s, and donate the money to those for whom it is not nearly enough.
The Bishop of Swindon has backed the Surviving Winter Appeal, “this is a brilliant idea to help Government support go where it is most needed,” said Bishop Lee Rayfield. “This initiative retains the value of a universal benefit for older people and enables those who do not really need it to give it to those in greatest hardship. It is the kind of thoughtful and compassionate enterprise which illustrates to me what a Big Society should be about.”
The Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire John Bush (left) is backing the appeal. “There are too many elderly people in our county who are confronted with a cold and lonely winter ahead,” he said. “I warmly support The Community Foundation’s initiative to ask people to consider donating their Winter Fuel Payment to help those who desperately need the extra support during the winter. We can make a real difference by giving in this way to a charity that knows where the elderly and frail are and knows their needs.”
The WFP is a universal payment of between £125 and £400, depending on age and domestic circumstances, made to everybody aged over 60 on the electoral roll, during November and December. If just one per cent of the 153,000 people over 60 in Wiltshire and Swindon were to donate their WFP to the appeal, and Gift Aid it, The Foundation could raise more than £300,000.
Rosemary Macdonald, Chief Executive of the Foundation, said: "We believe that if a small percentage feel that they could donate their Winter Fuel Payment, we would not only be able to help many older people to literally survive the winter, we would also be able to make sure hundreds of others who suffer in silence would be better equipped to cope with the very cold weather and get through the winter with dignity. About 17,500 pensioners live in fuel poverty in Wiltshire and Swindon and more than 22,510 pensioners on very low incomes claim tax credits. It is not difficult to see the scale of the challenge."
The foundation is the main channel for grassroots grant-making to small charities, groups and causes throughout Wiltshire and in Swindon. Mrs Macdonald said: "Because of this relationship we have a ready-made network to identify winter need and target the money raised most cost-effectively. We will be contacting local lunch clubs, day centres and other charities, which we know are focused on the elderly and asking them how and where the money can be spent to achieve the greatest impact. Providing our donors use Gift Aid, we anticipate that all the support costs will be covered by the tax reimbursement. Every penny given will reach its target."
The money raised by the Surviving Winter Appeal will be used in two ways:
In direct payments to those who need the additional help to buy fuel, insulate their homes, eat properly and keep in touch with family and community
In grants to local charities and groups with a record of looking after the old and vulnerable
It can also help in less obvious ways, supporting lunch clubs and voluntary groups who provide all-important human contact, such as The Till Valley Day Centre who have a regular dance group for older people.
The public can donate to the fund by visiting the Community Foundation website at www.wscf.org.uk and clicking on the link to the Surviving Winter Appeal. You can also call 01380 729284 for more details.
Pictured: Bishop Lee Rayfield with Jon Yates from The Community Foundation
and, Older People enjoying the dancing at Till Valley Day Centre – A great way to keep active in the winter