Winter Warmth Case Studies

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:

Sheila, 74, Carlisle

Sheila is 74, lives alone in Carlisle and receives pension credit. She knows how difficult it can be for people in her position.

“I only put my heating on when it’s really cold, for about half an hour, just to warm the place up.

“I can understand how some people are frightened to put their heating on, or go without food. You never know what the bills are going to be. Sometimes, it’s not too bad, other times you get a shock.

“You definitely feel the cold more as you get older. A few years ago I would have gone without an overcoat – but not now.

“We were brought up to think that if you paid your bills you’d be safe.”

Mary, 83, Carlisle

Mary is 83 and lives alone in a one-bedroom first floor flat in Carlisle.

Every day she goes for a walk to keep fit and considers herself to be lucky to live in sheltered accommodation where everyone looks out for one another.

“The Winter Warmth grant from Cumbria Community Foundation means that I don’t have to worry about putting the heating on when I need it. As you get older it’s dangerous to be cold, especially if you get colds, or the flu or chest infections. I would say to anyone that if they’re worried about keeping warm or frightened of putting the heating on, they should apply.”

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 to put 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.”


Valerie, 71, Cockermouth

Valerie, one Winter Warmth grant recipient“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.”

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.”

Sally*, 80, Cumbria

“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.”

Alan, 90, Windermere

Alan said: “It made an awful lot of difference. I am able to keep my heating on and my house is nice and warm.”

Edward, 89, Ulverston

Edward said: “Our boiler broke last winter and we needed a new one. The winter warmth grant helped us with the diabolical cost of fuel which goes up and up each year. My wife and I are on a limited income and we need to keep warm at our age.”

John, 73, Penrith

John has been in a wheelchair for 18 years after he had a stroke. He said: “It’s helped with my electric and gas bills. I am very cold when I get home and need to warm up. It’s handy to have the winter warmth grant.”


Linda, 67, Distington

Linda said: “It’s wonderful, we don’t have to think quite as much about putting the heating on. Last year they took the gas fire out and put an electric one in, which is much more expensive to run, but we’re tenants so we can’t choose what we have, We both get stuck in the house quite a lot for health reasons, so the money means we keep warm.”

Arnold*, 74, Milnthorpe

“The Winter Warmth 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.”

David, 71, Workington

David, 71 is from Workington and has a heart condition. He also received a Winter Warmth grant and said: “The money was very welcome. Without it, I can either eat or put the gas on. My pension is very low. It went up £2.50 last year, but the rent and council tax went up by more. It gave me the confidence to put the heating on. Because when you are on low income you haven’t got much spare cash.”

Mr and Mrs Carter, 70’s, Barrow

Mr and Mrs Carter, from Barrow are both in their 70’s. Mrs Carter said: “My husband has vascular problems and is always cold so we have the heating on from the moment he gets up to the time he goes to bed. He has been waiting two and a half years for an operation and it has been cancelled because of the pandemic. If we didn’t receive the grant, we would have to limit the heating to try and save some money. It has made a lot of difference.”

Frank, 75, Penrith

Penrith resident, Frank is 75 and is grateful for the grant over winter: “It has made all the difference in the world. It means I can keep warm and have a decent Christmas dinner. My friend who is in a wheelchair told me about the fund when we were talking about how we would get by.”

Kathy*, 80, Penrith

After the recent loss of her husband, Kathy was not only struggling emotionally, but also financially, due to the reduction to only one household income and owning a large property. Kathy said: “I was putting on extra layers to keep warm, as I was not sure how far my money would stretch. The Winter Warmth grant was a great help, as I now feel more relaxed with turning up the heating, as there is a backup pot of money to pay those extra fuel costs.”

George*, 74 , Brampton.

Geaorge lives alone in a ground floor flat in Brampton. George said: “I have several health conditions that impact upon my daily living and my ability to keep warm over the winter months. The Winter Warmth grant has enabled me to not only pay my energy bill but impacted positively on my general outlook on life, feeling much less stressed and worried.”

Emily*, 68, Penrith

Emily has health conditions, which affects her mobility. Emily said: “The local Winter Warmth Grant of £150 has meant that I was able to have the heating on during the cold spells, without worrying how to pay for this. I live in a rural area and rely on oil fuel and feel that this has taken added pressure off me during an already stressful time.”

Christine, 60, Alston

Christine lives on her own and has various health conditions, which are exacerbated by the cold weather.  Christine said: “I was in the process of applying for benefits but struggling to make ends meet between these payments. The Winter Warmth grant was awarded and I was very grateful, as this allowed me to have the heating on at a constant heat, which I was not able to do before the cheque was awarded.”

Dorothy, 83, Carlisle

Dorothy said: “I am very grateful for the Winter Warmth Grant as this has allowed me to heat my home when it was cold. It  also made things easier for me as I was struggling financially, due to splitting up with my partner and I have multiple health problems. For people like me this money makes a big difference to our standard of living.”

Margaret, 75, Carlisle

The grant was a great help to Margaret, not only she was able to pay for her utilities but it also greatly lessened her worries about bills. Margaret said: “ I get very cold because of my health conditions and during the winter I can’t even go out in the garden, because I can’t stand the cold. So the grant contributed to keeping her warm this winter and lessened her worries.

Paul, 70, Grange-Over-Sands

Paul said: “It lessens the stress that we have trying to make sure we cover our bills for the winter as we have to have the warmth of heating 24/7 for the whole winter period due to mine and my wife’s health conditions”.

Anne, 65, South Lakeland

Anne said: “The grant has been fantastic. It has enabled me to purchase more logs for winter, this has helped me to keep warm. Keeping warm is important due to my health conditions. I don’t know what I would do without the grant. Central heating is expensive”.

Liz, 80, Windermere

Liz said: “It really made a difference and enabled me to put the heating on without worry, especially with being on benefits. I didn’t feel frightened of putting the heating on and I could put the radiators on in all room rather than just my lounge”.

*name changed