Reducing the fear of the Cumbrian winter

22nd November 2023

Older people across Cumbria are worried about the winter ahead with many unable to afford to heat their homes.

Andrew Purvis, 72, said: “I worry about using electricity. The price of it is scary.”

Many older Cumbrians are forced to choose between heating and eating during winter and this year will be extra tough due to continuing high energy and food costs.

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

But local people have a chance to help as the county’s Winter Warmth Appeal launched earlier this month with the aim of raising £500,000.

Money donated by the public and businesses is given to vulnerable older Cumbrians so they can afford to turn their heating on.

Jenny Benson, Director of Programmes and Partnerships at Cumbria Community Foundation, the charity which runs the annual appeal, says donations are even more crucial this year.

“We are being told by our partners at Age UK just how desperate a situation it is for people who are being forced to choose whether they eat or heat their homes,” she said.

Carolyn Singleton

Carolyn Singleton, 79, from Newtown in Carlisle said: “If I didn’t have the Winter Warmth grant, I wouldn’t be able to turn the heating on.”

Andrew Purvis, 72, who lives near Aspatria, said: “You are forever thinking, can I do that? Should I put the heating on? I’m careful about baths and showers, because of the cost of heating the water. Food has all gone up as well. You have to balance one against the other – heat and food.”

Mary Morsby

Mary Morsby is 69 and lives on Walney Island in Barrow in Furness. She says the Winter Warmth grant is a “life saver.”

“If I can’t keep the house warm, or warmish, then I get bad coughing fits and my chest gets tight,” she says.

“I have an electric fire, but I don’t use it because it is too dear. To be truthful sometimes it is warmer outside than it is in.”

Mary said the Winter Warmth grant made a huge difference last winter.
“It helped me to put money on the gas and electric and get warmer. I was able to get a few bits of shopping. I had cut back on food, and things like washing powder and toiletries.

“Every time you shop stuff has gone up. It’s hard work trying to juggle stuff in the winter. You have got to eat and keep warm. The money was like a godsend really. It’s a life saver.”

Cumbria Community Foundation, which is based at Dovenby near Cockermouth, has run the appeal every year since 2010 raising almost £2.5m.

Last year Cumbrian individuals and businesses donated a record £661,908 to the Winter Warmth Appeal. This was used to make 2,413 grants, helping 3,223 older Cumbrians keep warm.

This year the situation is likely to be worse due to the continued energy crisis and the impact it is having on fuel bills this winter. It comes at a time when food prices and other household costs are also going up, leaving the vulnerable on low incomes in our county under more pressure than ever before.

Donations to the Winter Warmth Appeal made between 9am on November 13 and 5pm December 11 will be doubled thanks to the generosity of match funding champions: WCF Ltd, John Laing Charitable Trust, Cumberland Council, Nuclear Waste Services, Hadfield Trust, Rural Getaways Ltd, Furness Building Society, Lake District Estates,, Roselands Trust, the Johnson Fund, Brian and Ann Clark Fund, Harvey Family Fund and private donors.

Jo Ritzema, Managing Director of Brampton-based WCF, which has donated more than £50,000 to appeal since 2018, said: “We put our team and the rural communities in which they live and work at the heart of our business, and take their lead to provide long-standing support to the charities and organisations which are important to them.

“With the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and rising energy bills, it’s never been more important to support those who cannot afford to heat their homes this winter. I would urge anyone who is able to get behind the Winter Warmth campaign and make a real difference to people’s lives in Cumbria.”

You can donate online using this link.

Alternatively, donations can be made by cheque (payable to Cumbria Community Foundation) or phone. To make a phone donation, please ring 01900 825760 between the hours of 9am-5pm.