It’s never easy getting someone to agree to be a case study. Most people eligible for Winter Warmth Fund grants are by definition, in need. They are also quite proud, don’t like asking for help, don’t expect to get much help and are genuinely shocked at how easy it is to get this little bit of help from Cumbria Community Foundation.
Here are some examples of people who were helped by the Winter Warmth Fund:
Sandra, 68, Egremont
“I live in a residential park and my home is not very well insulated. My bills are sky high when I have the heating on all the time so I’m always switching it on and off.”
“I suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, arthritis and chest problems which are all made worse by the cold. My husband also suffers from numerous health conditions including sight loss and diabetes and he really feels the cold so we don’t go out much.”
“I started coming to Age UK last year and they encouraged me to apply for a grant. I cannot thank people enough for donating. I think it’s fantastic that the people of Cumbria are so caring.”
Desmond, 76, Whitehaven
“I live alone in a two bedroom house and my pension credit has been going down for a number of years now. In winter I usually just use a small halogen heater instead of putting the heating on. I only put the gas on for a bath, not for heating, as it’s too expensive.”
“I received a grant last year which meant I was able the heating on a lot more often and get my whole house warm. It was a big relief to receive the help. I have encouraged my friends to apply as well.”
Isabel, 69, Egremont
“I live on my own and I only put one radiator on because I’m frightened of what the costs will be if I heat the whole house. I tend to use a hot water bottle instead. I have damp in my bedroom, which aggravates my asthma so I need to put the heating on more often.”
“I received a grant last year and it made a big difference. I think people who donate to the appeal are marvellous and I will be recommending my friends to apply this year.”
Hilda, 65, Carlisle
“The grant makes a vast difference. I hesitate to put the heating on all the time because of the cost and I know the costs are going to rise again this year, which is a real problem. I live on my own and struggle to keep warm. I don’t like to go out much in winter in case I slip and have an accident so I prefer to stay in. I usually go to bed at 7pm to stay warm and avoid putting the heating on.”
“I didn’t like to ask for help as I thought there were people worse off than me but someone persuaded me to apply and I’ve had a grant for the last three years now. I think it’s a generational thing but we need to break through the barrier of getting older people to ask for help when they need it. I think it’s wonderful the work you do and I’m sure you help lots of people. I would encourage anyone to apply.”
John, 70, Penrith
“The grant helped a lot – it meant I could keep the heating on a bit longer. I’m at risk of getting pneumonia in winter so I tend to stay in and keep warm. I only go out to do my shopping. I will be applying for a grant again this year. I think it’s a fantastic cause and I am really grateful to the people who donate to the appeal.”
Mary, 75, Eskdale
“The grant did help a lot. My house has old central heating which is not very effective so I have to have electric heaters on as well which increases my heating costs. I live alone and I’m completely blind so I don’t go out much. Last year was the first time I didn’t get a chest infection and that could well be because I was able to have my heating on for longer.”
“I was thrilled to bits with the grant. Any small amount makes a difference when it comes to paying your heating bill. I saw an advert for the appeal in the paper and applied – it was very easy. I have been going through a difficult time as I recently lost my husband so this year’s grant will take a great weight off my mind. I will be telling my friends to apply too.”
Valerie, 71, Cockermouth
“I live on my own, but I have to heat the house as if it is full of people. When you are on your own, your bills are the same as the couple next door, but there’s only one income. I have the heating on in the morning and the evening but its off during the day and at night. If it is really cold I will leave it on.
I’d rather go without something else rather than without heat. I have arthritis and the cold makes it worse. I cut down on food and just buy the basics. I’d rather have a warm house. The Winter Warmth grant was a big help. I pay all my bills by direct debit so the same amount of money goes out all year.”
Judy, 60, Armathwaite
Judy has Multiple Sclerosis and has been in a wheelchair for 34 years. When she gets cold her legs lock and she can’t move. Just getting about from day-to-day she relies on morphine pain relief patches.
She found herself homeless in January when her privately rented bungalow was deemed unfit to live in. The house had no hot water because if she turned the water heater on – all the electrics in the house blew; if she turned the electric fire on, once again the electrics tripped. There was no central heating. She couldn’t get warm – even with five quilts on her bed. She relied on a coal fire to heat one room.
The money from Cumbria Community Foundation bought a month’s worth of coal. She was using a bag a day – last winter that was costing her £13 a bag.
“I was just so grateful to receive the money from the Winter Warmth Fund, I spent £160 over Christmas and New Year on coal and that just heated one room.
“If the winter had been as bitterly cold as the one before, I would have been dead.”
She wasn’t joking. One January morning, the money and the coal had run out. A visitor noticed she was going blue and called her GP. She had hypothermia.
A kind friend took her in, nursed her back to health and has provided a roof over her head while she waits for a housing association property.
Jyoti, 79, Dalston
Jyoti had to move out of Carlisle when the sheltered accommodation she was living in closed. She is now living a few miles out of the city and has been left very isolated by the move.
She’d spent her savings doing up the kitchen in her old flat so she didn’t have to bend down to get anything out of the cupboards. Now she is back to square one and her heart, lung and mobility problems leave her pretty much housebound.
She can’t walk more than a few paces and is fearful of venturing out on her mobility scooter and getting lost or stuck. She can’t get to the supermarket from her new place so she relies on the local individual shops that are harder to get in and out of and more expensive. She can’t get into the city because she can’t get on and off a bus. But she is teaching herself how to paint with watercolours and she has formed an art group with her fellow residents.
When her Winter Warmth Fund Grant cheque arrived, she said: “It was a lovely surprise to me. I was very grateful, it lightened the burden.”