Urgent donations needed to combat the cold this winter

26th November 2019

Imagine it’s freezing outside and being unable to heat your home. That is the harsh reality for many people across Cumbria.

Cold weather is a prime cause of over 300 preventable deaths in Cumbria a year – often worsened by living in older or isolated rural homes. In our worst winters, this figure has risen to 500.

The Winter Warmth Appeal, run by Cumbria Community Foundation, ensures vulnerable older people, who often choose between heating and eating, can heat their homes and remain safe and well during the colder months.

Last year, more than 1,000 older Cumbrians were helped to stay warm and well through the cold winter months, thanks to the generosity of local people who donated over £150,000 to the Winter Warmth Appeal.

Cumbria Community Foundation works in partnership with Age UK across Cumbria to reach the most vulnerable people in our county. Of the 500 grants awarded to households so far this winter, half live alone and due to increased demand, the Foundation is desperately in need of urgent funds to support more older people, as soon as possible.

Older people are more likely to live in poorly insulated, cold homes and become seriously ill or even die during the winter. To keep warm, they must turn their heating up, but with a sharp hike in energy prices, many pensioners cannot afford to do so. Many suffer in silence during the coldest months, often hidden from view.

Hannah Kitching, Age UK South Lakeland, said: “The Winter Warmth Fund can be a lifesaver for hundreds of older people in South Lakeland each year. A cold home can be a real danger for many of our vulnerable clients. The extra money provided by the Winter Warmth Appeal means that older people no longer must choose between eating and remaining warm during the winter months. This is often the sad reality that leads to many avoidable hospital admissions.”

A 74-year-old from Milnthorpe is now able to turn his heating on for the first time this winter: “The grant has made such a difference to me. I have been financially unable to turn my heating on in months but receiving this grant has meant that for the first time in a long time, I can actually feel warm at home. Instantly this makes me feel happier and healthier. Thank you.”

Jane Mindar, Age UK West Cumbria, said: “Around one in three people supported this year have never received the grant. This has been achieved by holding drop-in sessions in a variety of different locations, which are more accessible to isolated communities. We have also provided grants to people who use off grid fuel sources such as oil and coal and find it difficult to heat their homes. Many people we support have long-term health conditions, which means that they need to heat their homes well to stay healthier, so the impact on their health is significant and may help prevent hospital admissions or GP interventions.”

One in eight households in Cumbria live in fuel poverty. This year, several businesses and charitable trusts have pledged £57,000 to match any donations given, so that more money will be available to prevent older people having to choose between heating and eating. Any money donated up until Monday 11th December (or until the £57,000 match funding runs out) to the Winter Warmth Appeal will be automatically doubled thanks to generous match funding from: EDF Renewables, Sellafield Ltd, John Laing Charitable Trust, WCF Ltd, The Hadfield Trust, the Johnson Fund and the Roselands Trust.

EDF Renewables Director of Operations, Don Mackay, said: “This is a very good cause – one that will make an impactful difference to those who need it most. Winter is a tough time and can make things very miserable if you have to make choices between cooking hot food or keeping yourself warm. I’m very pleased that we are able to support this campaign.”

Annalee Holliday, Grants & Donor Services and Communications Officer at Cumbria Community Foundation, said: “During the last ten years, the Winter Warmth Appeal has raised £1,000,000 – we know Cumbrians are well known for their community spirit. We are calling on their warm generosity again to help us raise even more money this year by doubling their donation during our match funding challenge week. The match funders have pledged a total of £57,000 to the ‘Winter Warmth Match Funding Challenge’ meaning that donations made during that time will be worth £114,000.”

To donate online, click here. You can also send a cheque payable to ‘Cumbria Community Foundation’ (write Winter Warmth on the back) and post to Cumbria Community Foundation, Dovenby Hall, Dovenby, Cockermouth, Cumbria, CA13 0PN or call 01900 825760 Monday – Friday between 9am and 5pm.