Drive to tackle winter fuel poverty sees Norwich Foodbank pilot with Surviving Winter campaign
Winter is beginning to bite.
For most of us that means turning up the thermostat a couple of notches without a second thought.
But for many older people, it can be the difference between life and death. Every winter in Norfolk around 620 additional people die compared to the summer – and many of these deaths are preventable.
Every year Norfolk Community Foundation run their Surviving Winter campaign to help fund heating bills for older people who can’t afford them.
David and Frances Bushnell had been peacefully enjoying the early years of their retirement until a cancer diagnosis struck.
Former cold store man Mr Bushnell, 71, had been out of work two years when he suffered a stroke in 2016, and this year was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Despite having worked much of his life in freezers at temperatures of -28C, his condition has left him shivering even on a sweltering summer’s day.
The diagnosis also had financial implications. This winter Mr Bushnell will need better heating in the couple’s mobile home at Drayton Hall Park, and after energy company SSE hiked their heating bill from £100 to £160, they began to worry.
After receiving a cheque for £200 from the Surviving Winter campaign, administered by Age UK Norfolk, Mrs Bushnell, 73, said it had “lifted a weight off our shoulders.”
“David feels the cold very badly and we need the extra heat when it gets cold,” she said. “We are having to use a lot of extra heat.
“We have got an oil-filled radiator we use in the winter and in the evenings. We have also got storage heaters, but even when they are on their highest levels by 5 or 6pm there is no heat left in them. Then we have to bring in other heaters.
“We have to put extra clothes on and we have blankets over us in the winter.”
The Surviving Winter campaign has has now been running since 2013 and has raised £170,583.68 for older people who struggle to afford their heating bills.
The couple said they have been “lucky” in the past as their daughter has helped financially, but have struggled since Mr Bushnell retired three years ago.
“I didn’t think we would be entitled and I wasn’t sure about asking because we had always just managed,” said Mrs Bushnell. “If you think of it the other way around - we both worked for a lot of years and both paid a lot of tax and National Insurance. I now need some help,so why should I not ask for it?”
According to Age UK’s end of year report for 2016/17 they supported 110 households with a grant during last year’s Surviving Winter campaign.
Last winter the appeal raised £45,903.21.
New crisis at Norwich Foodbank
As budgets are squeezed tighter than ever before a new struggle is presenting itself at Norwich Foodbank.
For many people, the poverty of their situation has left them unable to afford the energy to cook the food in their parcel, let alone heat their home.
For that reason project manager Hannah Worsley is trying something new this winter. Working alongside Norfolk Community Foundation in a new pilot they are extending winter fuel payments to people under the age of 60 for the first time ever.
Previous Surviving Winter campaigns have worked successfully alongside Age UK Norfolk to help those above 60 with their winter fuel payments.
Now a limited pot of money is being made available to help those in an acute crisis in the city.
“People who come to foodbanks sometimes do not have the ability to cook the food we are giving them, and they don’t have the money for heating or warming the stove,” said Ms Worsley. “Often it is the choice between eating and putting your heating on. We have got people coming to us in crisis.”
By limiting the pilot to Norwich, the charity will try to gauge the extent of the issue, and hope to extend the project county-wide next year if the demand requires.
“It is a pilot, and if it goes well we would look at spreading it out further,” added Ms Worsley.
“We have been given a finite pot of money, so there is only so much to give.”
People in fuel poverty, whatever their age, could be referred to Norwich Foodbank from one of six key referral agencies who will assess their need, and if appropriate will be presented with a fuel voucher to accompany their food voucher.
“It used to be that just food met someone’s needs,” said Ms Worsley. “Now that is not enough. Money is being stretched and stretched. We have people coming here with perfectly managed bills and yet there isn’t enough left for food.
“If there then isn’t enough to heat or cook it that is a dire situation for them and when winter approaches they know it is going to get worse. If you are already feeling it now come winter it is going to be horrendous.”
Helen Tuttle, of Norfolk Community Foundation, said: “We have had a number of enquiries in the past for support wider than the focus which Age UK Norfolk have so successfully provided historically which we have not been able to help.
“The most important thing is that the more money that is given the more people we can potentially help across Norfolk in what is such a difficult and expensive time of year”
How to help
Some supporters choose to send a cheque and donate an amount equivalent to their own winter fuel allowance if they do not need it themselves, or give an alternative amount of their choice. Please make payable to Norfolk Community Foundation and send to: ‘Surviving Winter Appeal’, Norfolk Community Foundation, St. James Mill, Whitefriars, Norwich, NR3 1TN
You can donate either online or at a Barclays Bank using the following details: Account number: 03282503 Sort code: 20-62-61 Reference: SW Appeal
The appeal can claim an extra 25pc on your donation if you complete a Gift Aid form whether you pay by BACS or cheque. Send the form to Norfolk Community Foundation, St James Mill, Whitefriars, Norwich, NR3 1TN or scan by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Age UK Norfolk on 0300 500 1217 to find out about receiving support from the Surviving Winter Appeal.
Stay Well This Winter
Norfolk County Council Public Health and its partners are encouraging people to look out for others who may struggle to cope during colder weather with the Stay Well This Winter campaign.
It aims to make people aware of what they can do to keep themselves and their family, friends and neighbours in good health during the colder months.
As part of the Stay Well This Winter campaign, Norfolk Community Foundation is offering £38,000 worth of community grants to help vulnerable people in the local community who face particular hardship over the winter months. Grants of up to £3,000 each are available for projects such as lunch clubs for the elderly, drop-in services and outreach for the homeless, and befriending schemes. For more information and to apply, visit www.norfolkfoundation.com/funds/communities-that-care-stay-well-this-winter-fund/
For more information about Stay Well This Winter, visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/staywellthiswinter.