An appeal to keep older Cumbrians warm and well throughout the winter has received almost £170,000 in donations – the most ever received in one year.
More than 28,000 Cumbrians live in fuel poverty, defined as spending more than 10 per cent of income on fuel. Cumbria Community Foundation’s annual Winter Warmth Appeal has been tackling fuel poverty for the past eight years, supporting thousands of people in that time.
Working in partnership with Age UK across the county, small grants are provided to the most vulnerable individuals who may face crisis.
Andy Beeforth, the community foundation’s Chief Executive, said: “Health studies show that older people or those with disabilities are more vulnerable in cold weather because they are unable to move around to keep warm. Cold weather can make illnesses associated with respiratory and circulatory conditions far worse.
“Around 300 people die in Cumbria each year simply because they cannot afford to heat their home properly. We have heard from people who can only heat one room in their home for part of the day, even when temperatures are hovering around freezing outside.”
Between October and March the appeal gave out more than £132,000 to just under a thousand individuals and families across the county, many of them elderly or infirm. The rest of the money will be distributed next winter so grants can be made immediately when the weather starts getting cold again.
“The response has been fantastic, people have been very generous,” said Mr Beeforth. “We are so grateful to everyone who has contributed. We know these payments make a real difference to those who receive them, it really can save a life.”
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. Being a pensioner means I can’t just put the heating on when I want. This grant meant I could have it on more often though and I’m very grateful for that.”
A couple in their eighties from Barrow, said: “The grant meant we could replace a broken storage heater. It cost £1,700 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 meant it isn’t such a worry.”
A South Lakeland couple who have health and mobility problems, said: “Being a wheelchair user is limiting as we can’t walk around to keep warmer in winter. We were able to split the grant between our electricity and gas meters and that meant we could keep the heating on during the day without worrying about it.”
Much of the money has been raised by hundreds of individuals pledging their government Winter Fuel Payment. Donations to the appeal also came from organisations and charitable trusts, Big Sleep fundraisers as well as benefiting from £40,000 match funding from the Big Give Christmas Challenge.
Since Winter Warmth Appeal first launched in 2010, the appeal has raised more than £750,000 in total for the county’s older residents. The appeal will be launched again this October.
To donate to the appeal or find out more about the wider work of Cumbria Community Foundation, go to www.cumbriafoundation.org or call 01900 825760.