Spread a little warmth this winter - sharing your winter fuel payment could help a pensioner in Suffolk through the bleakest days of the year

The launch of the Surviving Winter appeal at the Suffolk Community Foundation in Wherstead.

The launch of the Surviving Winter appeal at the Suffolk Community Foundation in Wherstead. - Credit: Archant

At the launch of the 2014 Surviving Winter appeal Lynne Mortimer meets two East Anglian legends and finds out how a simple act of generosity can help save hundreds of lives.

Cold can be a killer but not only is the Winter Fuel Payment helping older people survive the winter, one simple act can make it so much better for those in fuel poverty.

Leading the launch of Surviving Winter were legendary East Anglian broadcasters Helen McDermott and Christine Webber who urge: “If you received a Winter Fuel Payment and you don’t need it, please donate it to someone who does.’’

For older people in Suffolk, staying warm at home is not a luxury, it’s a life saver. That’s why this year’s appeal is challenging the people of Suffolk to join together and raise a record breaking £100,000.

It is shocking to hear that an average of 353 vulnerable people die each year from causes directly attributed to the cold and poor living conditions. And this is just in Suffolk. If it were a UK-wide figure it would be unacceptable, but the tragic reality is that this number of deaths occur just within this one county.

Now in its fourth year, Suffolk Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter appeal has already raised over £200,000. The money is immediately distributed to those most in need across Suffolk. More than 850 households have benefited when the climate is at its most harsh. Lives have already been saved but there is much more still to do. With a target of £100,000 for this year’s appeal the aim is to ensure that many more older people in our communities don’t suffer from the cold this winter.

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Suffolk Community Foundation chief executive Stephen Singleton explains: “almost 30,000 households in Suffolk are still living in fuel poverty. Many suffer in silence, with no choice but to conserve what little energy they have. The majority of the most vulnerable are over 65. It is they who have the fewest options to improve their own situation, which is why it’s so important that as many people as possible step up to support this year’s campaign.”

Many high profile and famous people are stepping forward to highlight the campaign and make their own contribution to the appeal, among them is Christine Webber, who has donated her own Winter Fuel Payments for a number of years and Helen McDermott.

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Christine says “If you already have the resources to stay warm in your own home this year, then the generous donation of all or part of your Winter Fuel Payment to someone else in Suffolk will really make a difference. I do hope everyone who is in a position to help, whether they receive the Winter Fuel payment or not, will realise what a difference their contribution will make.’’

Helen says “it is clearly not acceptable in 2014 for any vulnerable person in our society to go to bed cold and wake up not knowing how they are going to heat even one room within their own home. Without the support of this appeal, surviving winter is likely to be a real struggle.”

Suffolk Community Foundation spearheads its fourth successive annual appeal in partnership with East Anglian Daily Times, Ipswich Star, Ipswich Building Society and Age UK Suffolk.

Tim Holder, development director at Suffolk Community Foundation adds: “The strength of this partnership lies in local Suffolk-based organisations working together to co-ordinate the Surviving Winter appeal. People know that if they contribute, someone in their neighbourhood or community will benefit. It’s a really simple idea that will make a huge difference to the lives of older people in our community who are vulnerable and most in need.”

The money raised is distributed in partnership with Age UK Suffolk and last year went a long way in helping vulnerable older people in Suffolk keep warm throughout the winter.

The UK has one of the highest rates of winter related increases in death in Europe. Over 30,000 households in Suffolk suffer from fuel poverty, around 10% of all households in the county. The Surviving Winter appeal provides help at the very moment of crisis in someone’s life.

Jim Overbury, senior community involvement and liaison officer at Age UK Suffolk says: “Fuel poverty forces those suffering from it to make stark choices. Do I spend what I need to heat my home and fall into debt, or do I ration the energy I use and risk living in a cold damp home?

“Neither are positive choices and are particularly dangerous to the health and wellbeing of older people. Others spend money on fuel and reduce purchasing of other necessities, like food, again to the detriment of their health.”

On receiving his grant last year Mr Brian Allan, 75, from Lowestoft commented: “You see in the papers and on the television about people who actually heat or eat and it really does apply. It was such a relief that I could now put some heat on… I felt like I’d won the lottery.”

Paul Winter, chief executive of Ipswich Building Society said: “We are delighted to be involved once more in the Surviving Winter appeal and are very happy to welcome people into our Ipswich Building Society branches to make their donation.”

Christian Bone, head of member and community services at East of England Co-Operative Society says: “We are pleased to support the Surviving Winter appeal again this year and we will be encouraging all our members and customers to participate and to help those in need over the winter months.”

Editor in chief at the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star Terry Hunt, says: “We hope people will read about this campaign today and want to help. All you have to do to take part in this life saving appeal is to fill in the form on this page and send it in. It will make a real difference.”

If you feel able to, Suffolk Community Foundation is asking you to pledge your Winter Fuel Payment to help those desperately in need of extra support during the winter. You can do this online at www.suffolkcf.org.uk or by calling 01473 602602.

You can also make your donation by visiting your local branch of Ipswich Building Society or by filling in the coupon on the facing page or download a form here

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