‘Heating or eating……’. It’s an unthinkable question, but that’s the choice which thousands of people living in fuel poverty are forced to make.
Many of us look forward to winter, to Christmas and opportunities to spend time with family and friends. But for some, cold weather, isolation and poverty can make it an extremely challenging time.
A recent survey showed that 29% of the UK are concerned that they will have to go without gas or electricity at some point this winter. Others will go without hot food so that they can save up energy to heat their homes. Last year there were an additional 335 excess deaths during winter in County Durham alone – and a third of these related directly to the cold and to fuel poverty.
Last year, one group who benefitted from the Winter Warmth campaign ran a ‘meals on wheels’ service providing a hot meal to help people in their area who would be isolated over the winter months.
The campaign originally began as a vehicle for generous pensioners to ‘recycle’ their Winter Fuel payments and has now developed into a giving portal for anyone who wants to help support vulnerable people live well during the winter. The County Durham Community Foundation which is one of 46 Community Foundations in the UK is leading on this for the whole of the North East.
Relying heavily on volunteers and donations, the group had struggled to keep up with demand but with a small grant from the Foundation, the group was able to provide over 120 meals per week to those with mobility problems, the elderly or people suffering ill health. They were able to provide food seven days a week, all year round, even Christmas Day.
Another grant from County Durham Community Foundation helped a group support a local woman and her children to keep warm and fed. Escaping a violent relationship, the young woman had to set up home from scratch. Benefits changes meant she’d received no income for several weeks other than a small payment from her part-time work. She approached a local group to see if they could help as she didn’t have any food in the house, the children had no winter coats or shoes and she had no duvets on the beds. Because of a grant from the Foundation, the group provided her with a food and household goods hamper that included duvets and bedding, and a children’s package that included winter clothing for all the family. For the family, the help came just in time:
“The volunteers at the group have been amazing, I can’t thank everyone enough for what you have done for me. The kids are no longer complaining of being cold during the night and I am no longer lying awake crying from stress and worry. I don’t know what people like me would do if you weren’t there to help. You are so good – me and my kids thank you!”
People who received help described it as ‘life saving’. We wouldn’t be able to help groups like these without your support.
We are asking all of those who are able to give – businesses, schools and local people – to get involved with our campaign. You could run a fundraising event for us or give directly to the fund, so that we can support more groups and charities. We want to make this winter a time for all to be safe and warm.
View our Winter Warmth impact report here
To find out how you can help and become involved please contact us on 0191 378 6340.