Winter Warmth Appeal launched as experts warn of tough winter ahead for Cumbria’s older people

3rd November 2022

Health and care leaders in Cumbria are warning that older people are facing one of the toughest and potentially most deadly winters on record.

The soaring cost-of-living crisis means this winter poses a serious threat to elderly people who already struggle to afford heating at home.

Every year between 300 and 500 older Cumbrians die because of problems related to not being able to heat their homes.

Colin Cox, Cumbria’s Director of Public Health, said: “The cost-of-living crisis has overtaken Covid-19 as the major public health threat over the coming months.

“Difficulty in heating houses leads directly to increased lung and heart health problems and contributes to the higher rate of hospitalisations and deaths that we see over the winter, so I’m particularly worried about what might happen this year.

“Winter is always a particularly difficult time for many people, including those who are older and on lower incomes, and this year is likely to be exceptionally so.”

His comments come as this year’s Winter Warmth Appeal launches in Cumbria with the aim of raising £500,000 to help older people turn on their heating.

Colin Cox said: “I very much welcome the Winter Warmth Appeal as something that could really help Cumbria’s most vulnerable people in what looks set to be the hardest winter for many years.”

Last year generous Cumbrian individuals and businesses donated a record £222,819 to the Winter Warmth Appeal. This was used to make 1,319 grants, helping 1,751 older Cumbrians keep warm.

Hannah Kitching, client services manager at Age UK South Lakeland says the appeal is more vital than ever this year.

“Bluntly put, the Winter Warmth Appeal could be the difference between life and death,” she said.

“Older people are petrified and are making drastic sacrifices for fear of being unable to stay safe and well in their own homes.”

The Winter Warmth Appeal is run each year by the charity Cumbria Community Foundation which is based in Dovenby.

CCF chief executive Andy Beeforth said: “Every year many vulnerable Cumbrians have to choose between heating and eating.

“But this winter could see many more in serious difficulty because of the huge rises in the cost of energy happening at the same time as spiralling food costs. It is a perfect storm of difficulty facing older Cumbrians with limited means.

“I would ask everyone who is able, to please make a donation to the Winter Warmth Appeal, whether large or small. The money goes directly in grants to help elderly Cumbrians to turn on their heating during the coldest weather.”

Cumbria Community Foundation has run the appeal every year since it was launched in 2010 raising more than £1m. This year the Foundation has set a higher target of £500,000. Any donations made between 7th November and 9th December will be doubled with match funding.

Andy Beeforth said: “Because of the severity of the circumstances this year we have set our highest ever target – £500,000.

“We know that Cumbrians are immensely generous, the Winter Warmth Appeal raised a record amount last year. I hope we can rise to the exceptional challenge this winter and smash the new target.

“Please donate if you can. Let’s not let the cold and the cost-of-living crisis bring misery and the risk of death to vulnerable older members of our community.”

Last year a winter warmth grant proved crucial for Anthony Gorman and his wife Carol. Anthony, 78, and Carol, 81, live in Little Urswick near Barrow-in-Furness.

“I have never had anything for nothing, and I didn’t hold out much hope of getting this grant, so it was a big surprise when we did,” said Anthony.

“It made a terrific difference. I’m quite badly disabled with a serious spinal condition. I’m in constant pain and have dreadful sciatica virtually constantly.

“I can’t walk very far so I can’t move about to keep warm. With the cost-of-living crisis at the moment it’s very disturbing to see people doing without food to keep the heating on.

“I hope to God it never comes to not being able to afford heating. Cold makes the pain worse,” he said.

“To people who donate money to help the likes of myself I say, thank you very much. They absolutely make a huge difference to both of us.”

Rosemary Armstrong, 78, from Stanwix in Carlisle, says a winter warmth grant made winter bearable last year.

“The bungalow gets very, very cold,” said Rosemary. “I have to sit with my feet up in the evening because they turn to blocks of ice. My circulation is not as good as it was.”

Rosemary says she has cut down on food due to rising costs. “I have lost a stone and a half which I probably needed to do. I just don’t eat as many treats and puddings anymore.

“The winter warmth grant makes a big difference in not worrying so much about my bills and being able to keep warm.”

The Winter Warmth Appeal also proved vital for Peter Charters last year. Peter is 73 and lives in Grange-over-Sands in a rented two-bedroom flat.

A winter warmth grant meant he could keep his storage heaters on during the coldest weather.

“It was getting quite cold. I had to get the blankets out. I used to wrap myself up in a duvet,” said Peter who suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and diabetes.

“I’m quite vulnerable,” he said. “I can’t get out for exercise now because of the COPD, if I walk any distance I get out of breath.

“I am very grateful to people who have donated to the Winter Warmth Appeal. If they have the means to be able to donate, I am more than grateful, especially for people like myself who don’t have a very high income and you are stuck in that situation.”

There are many ways in which you can make a donation, find our more here.

*Carlisle artist David Lush created the attached image specially for the Winter Warmth Appeal fund report 2021-2022.