MORE vulnerable people than ever before will be helped through an especially cold start to the year, thanks to readers’ record-breaking generosity.

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The Surviving Winter campaign has officially outdone the £55,000 total set last year, with donations and support still coming in.

Charity chiefs lauded the efforts of EADT readers who have so far contributed £56,631 to help vulnerable people struggling with heating bills.

But, with freezing temperatures on the way and energy prices reaching record levels, the battle to prevent unnecessary illness or deaths continues.

Lives have been saved, and can go on being saved, if people less in need give some or all of their winter fuel payment to help vulnerable people pay their bills.

The campaign is also being led by Age UK Suffolk and The Suffolk Foundation, with support from the East of England Co-operative Society.

The Suffolk Foundation’s chairman, David Sheepshanks, said: “We are immensely grateful to all those who have donated to our vital Surviving Winter campaign this year, which is already doing so much to help alleviate fuel poverty through the distribution of harsh winter grants by our partners Age UK Suffolk.

“I am delighted and humbled by the generosity of the EADT readers who have now raised over £56,000 - more than our public appeal raised over the entire winter last year.

“As we approach the coldest period of the year, and with many winter bills due to land on doorsteps soon, we would be so grateful to anyone who feels able to join in this special appeal and make a direct difference this winter.”

With temperatures set to drop as low as -6C this week, it is particularly important for people to keep their homes warm in order to reduce the risk of illness.

Some people are forced to live and sleep in one room to save money on heating - leaving their movements restricted to just one part of their home and putting their health at risk.

Stephen Singleton, chief executive of The Suffolk Foundation, added: “We’re due some really cold weather, and as soon as that happens, the heaters will need to be cranked up even further.

“It’s absolutely vital that we are at full pelt distributing that money and ensuring it goes to the coalface. As well as working with Age UK, we are starting to work with the Citizens Advice Bureau and local authorities to make sure it is used wisely.

“Rising fuel bills are worrying for all of us, but for vulnerable people it’s even more difficult. Some older people will live in one part of their home wrapped up in lots of clothing. That’s fine until they go to bed in a freezing room, when it becomes an increasing risk to their health.

“If older people are consistently exposed to temperatures below 16 degrees, it increases their risk of hypothermia, heart attack or stroke.

“Some of the money we raised last year was still being distributed in May. It only stopped because we ran out. We’re well ahead of where we were last year and we’re meeting demand head on.”

Anyone getting the state pension should be entitled to a winter fuel payment.

Pledge forms can also be picked up from all East of England Co-operative Society stores throughout the winter.

Call The Suffolk Foundation directly on 01473 602602 to pay by card, or visit www.suffolkfoundation.org.uk for more information.

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