WILTSHIRE’s High Sheriff and Lord Lieutenant have urged the people of the county to support Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter campaign.
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 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.
High Sheriff Ashley Truluck CB CBE, who took on the role of High Sheriff in May and is also chairman of trustees at the community foundation, said: “Isn’t it shocking that in this day and age that each winter in Wiltshire, so many older people will die because they can’t afford to heat their homes?
“And yet many of us get a Winter Fuel Payment from the government which we may not use. The Surviving Winter campaign allows those people to give this unused payment to the Wiltshire Community Foundation and it will recycle it to those people who do need it so that we can get that shocking number of deaths down.”
Lord Lieutenant Sarah Troughton, who is a patron of the community foundation, has been a keen supporter of the campaign. She said: “Keeping one's home warm is expensive. Anyone who is in receipt of the government's Winter Fuel Payment who doesn't necessarily need it might consider donating the amount to the community foundation.
“This money will immediately be passed on to organisations like Age UK and to vulnerable local people in our county who need urgent help and support with fuel bills, boiler replacement costs and general heating advice to get them through the winter months. If you feel you can do this the foundation would be extremely grateful.”
Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver: “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 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 will use funding from the appeal to pay for extra training and advisor time to help clients with claims for extra benefits.
To donate to Surviving Winter go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.