“TOGETHER we can end the misery of fuel poverty.”

That’s the message from Barbara Gubbins, chief executive at County Durham Community Foundation.

The Foundation’s Surviving Winter campaign launches today, with hopes that it will raise even more than previous years.

Barbara explained: “We are truly grateful for the overwhelming support we’ve received with this campaign to date, which means so much to us.

“This year we are hoping to go one better and raise even more funds so we can really push the work we’re doing and make winter more comfortable for older people who are really struggling on limited means.

“We have always believed that a society can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members, and we have every faith that the North East will show its trademark generosity in supporting our campaign.”

Surviving Winter was founded in 2011 by the UK’s Community Foundation movement with high profile celebrities supporting the campaign. The late Denise Robertson attended the national launch at the House of Commons with Barbara to lend her support and was also interviewed on ITV’s breakfast show to highlight the importance of responding to specific need during the winter months.

So far, County Durham Community Foundation has raised £55,000 to help older, vulnerable people get through the winter months.

This year, if £10,000 is raised, The Big Give has vowed to match the total pound for pound.

Official statistics show that one older person dies needlessly every seven minutes from the cold.

In 2015, 13.3 per cent of North East households were deemed to be battling fuel poverty, according to government statistics. Spending more than 10 per cent of household income on fuel costs is the marker of a family or individual blighted by fuel poverty.

Donations will be used to: provide winter relief packs filled with hot water bottles, blankets and thermal socks; fund luncheon clubs and meal deliveries for those in need; and to offer emergency support to those at risk of ill-health due to the cold.