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Tens of thousands of people across the country will get help during the cold weather following 163 successful proposals from councils for a share of £20 million of Government funding, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced today.

The councils have pledged to run innovative schemes to help vulnerable people keep warm and safe and prevent people needing to go to hospital during the winter months.

Schemes include:

  • Wakefield’s Snowbell Responders will offer free emergency heating, home insulation, visits by a handyperson, benefit checks and home fire safety checks. This scheme, which has received £90,900 from the Department of Health, will help almost a thousand households in Wakefield.
  • Community Angels in Cumbria will encourage people to look in on their neighbours. Homeless people will be helped into housing and urgent heating and insulation help will be provided for vulnerable people. Cumbria’s bid totals £377,500.
  • Blackburn’s £114,500 bid will recruit Winter Buddies to help vulnerable people access support services. And emergency packs containing a fleece, hot water bottle, thermal socks, hot drinks, soups and low energy halogen heaters will be distributed.
  • Lambeth has been given £131,000 for a Winter Workers team to carry out welfare visits, do shopping, walk pets and collect prescriptions. Three hundred Snow Wardens will provide cold weather assistance if it snows. And a handyperson service will help promote energy efficiency, install draft proofing and provide practical aids such as thermometers and body warmers.

Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley said:

"Severe winter weather is a real threat to vulnerable people. People are more likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes, respiratory illnesses can get worse, and there is the risk of falls on slippery ground.

“Every vulnerable person needs help in winter, whether it’s help with shopping, heating the home or making hot meals. We asked councils to come up with innovative ideas to look after their communities and have made £20 million available to fund their plans. I welcome how local authorities, together with charity partners like Age UK and the Community Foundation Network are putting support networks in place. This funding will equip those services to respond to needs and emergencies.

“From mending boilers in Blackburn to walking labradors in Lambeth, this money will make a huge difference to tens of thousands of people this winter.”

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director at Age UK says:

"Cold weather and fuel poverty can cause misery, avoidable illness and even death for too many older people, leading to distress and adding to the workload of healthcare providers. We are delighted to welcome the Warm Homes Healthy People scheme which enables local authorities to work alongside charitable and community organisations to help to keep vulnerable older people well during winter and ease the strain on local NHS services.

"The Coalition Government has set a new emphasis on public health as one of its key objectives, and delivering the Cold Weather Plan is a very important step in the right direction. Age UK is building on this with its own Spread the Warmth winter campaign which aims to help 360,000 older people keep warm and well in the winter months."

Severe cold weather can be dangerous for vulnerable groups such as older people and those with serious illnesses. It's important for people to look after their health as the winter months can mean:

  • an increase in heart attacks and stroke — accounting for 40 per cent of excess winter deaths;
  • pressure on GPs - GP visits for respiratory illnesses increase by up to 19 per cent for every 1°C drop below 5°C of the mean temperature;
  • more pressure on the NHS - in 2009/10, the cost of emergency admissions due to falls on snow and ice was estimated at £42million; and
  • it is estimated that over £850 million is spent by the NHS each year as a result of the impact of cold housing on people's health.

Source: Department of Health

Written by Matthew Abbott
Wednesday, 21 December 2011 9:09

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