[T]HREE hundred pairs of slippers, one for each life unnecessarily lost.
This image, created to launch Cumbria Community Foundation’s Winter Warmth Appeal, has graphically brought home the harsh reality of a cold winter in the county.
Sitting alongside Surprise View and overlooking Derwentwater, near Keswick, the juxtaposition of the beautiful backdrop and the significance of the foreground, once again illustrates that Cumbria is a county of contrasts.
The charity’s chief executive, Andy Beeforth, said: “Every year we appeal to the public to give money to help keep our older neighbours warm in the winter months. We know that, on average, in a bad winter an extra 300 people will lose their lives to the effects of the plummeting temperatures. In our worst winters, this figure has risen to more than 500.
“It’s easy to become complacent about the numbers and not think about what they mean. Our photo illustrates that each one of those older people matters, they are someone’s mum or dad, gran or grandad, brother or sister, husband or wife. Bringing the slippers together for this photo made me stop in my tracks, it made me realise just how many people we lose unnecessarily.
“More than 120,000 Cumbrians receive the Government’s Winter Fuel Payment and to many it’s a lifeline, but for those that don’t need it, we can pass the money to someone who is choosing between heating and eating this winter. Maybe we can help keep some of those slippers in front of a warm fire, where they should be.”
Launched in 2010, the Winter Warmth Appeal has raised £630,000 to help thousands of older people who are in danger of becoming ill or even dying because of the cold. It literally saves lives.
We spoke to some of the people we helped to keep warm last winter:
A couple in the South Lakeland area who were struggling to keep their gas and electric metres topped up and out of the ‘emergency’ zone. The 60 year old husband is in a wheelchair after spinal surgery and his 55 year old wife suffers from poor health. He said: “We were able to split the Winter Warmth grant between our electricity and gas metres and that meant we could keep the heating on during the day without worrying about it. We’re very careful with the heating and our house isn’t energy efficient – we lose a lot of heat through the roof because there’s no insulation between the house and the old outhouse and although the windows are double glazed, the units are not well sealed so there are draughts between the window and the wall. My back problems mean I spend I lot of time lying down and I get cold very quickly. I’d like to be more mobile so I could walk about and keep warm in the winter, but now we are stuck in the house more than we’d like to be.”
A couple in the Barrow area who first heard about the Winter Warmth grants when their granddaughter took part in The Big Sleep, which helps to raise money for the appeal. The 81 year old woman lives with her 82 year old husband, she said: “The Winter Warmth grant meant we could replace a broken storage heater last year. It cost £1700 just for the one heater, but it is much more efficient than the old one and doesn’t cost as much to run. Our electricity bills are so high around Christmas time, getting this grant means it isn’t such a worry.”
In West Cumbria, a 74 year old man described the grant as meaning he didn’t have to wear his overcoat in the house to keep warm, he said: “I have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and asbestosis and if the temperature drops I can’t breathe properly and I can’t talk. If we can keep the heating on, I can breathe and talk normally. Last winter our boiler was condemned and we had no heating from the end of November to the beginning of February. We got a loan of an electric fan heater and bought some electric blankets to try to keep warm. The fan heater kept the sitting room warm but the rest of the house was freezing. We have an electric shower, so we could use that, but we had to boil the kettle to wash up. The switch which makes the spark is broken on the gas fire and I’ve been told I shouldn’t use anything else to light the fire, so we have to do without that. Being pensioners, we can’t just put the heating on when we want. This grant means we can have it on more often though and we’re very grateful for that.”
Cumbria Community Foundation collects generous donations and shares them with vulnerable older people who struggle to heat their homes, so they can stay warm and healthy during winter. There are different ways to donate to help older people in Cumbria.
We’re sharing simple information on ways that people can help keep warm. If you know people who are vulnerable to the cold this winter, please let them know how they can access support.
How to donate:
Please visit our BT MyDonate page to make a contribution: https://mydonate.bt.com/events/winter-warmth-2017
Online donations made between midday 28 November until midday on 5 December will be doubled as part of the BIG Give Christmas Challenge 2017: The Winter Warmth Fund a project by Cumbria Community Foundation
Send a cheque:
Please make cheques payable to Cumbria Community Foundation and write ‘Winter Warmth Fund’ on the back. Send cheques to our office; Cumbria Community Foundation, Dovenby Hall, Dovenby, Cockermouth, CA13 0PN.
If you are a tax payer, please also send a Gift Aid Declaration.
Donate via credit/debit card over the phone by calling 01900 825760. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm.