Surviving Winter Appeal: Ray of warmth in the cold winter months
The Surviving Winter Appeal is a lifeline for many older people struggling to afford food and heating, says Justin Sargent of the Somerset Community Foundation...
The Surviving Winter Appeal is a lifeline for many older people struggling to afford food and heating, says Justin Sargent of the Somerset Community Foundation
It was snowing across the region this week and while for many it’s a chance to throw snowballs and build snowmen, for many more it signals days of isolation and freezing temperatures with no relief.
Well, almost. The Surviving Winter Appeal pioneered by Somerset Community Foundation and now run by similar foundations across the country is making a difference.
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Let me tell you about what is happening in Somerset, and remember that wherever you live you can help change lives with a donation to the appeal. If you live outside Somerset and want to donate via our gift aid form we can pass the donation on to the Community Foundation in your area.
Thanks to the generosity of more than 300 better-off pensioners who have donated some or all of their Winter Fuel Payment to the Somerset Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter Appeal, over £60,000 has been made available to help older people most at risk in the colder weather.
Yarlington Housing Group, which match-funds grants from the foundation, is on course to help more than 70 households with grants worth over £10,000. Small grants are still available through a range of partners to help pensioners on the lowest incomes struggling with the cost of winter through a range of agencies, including Age UK Somerset (telephone 0845 643 4621). The scheme is open to people over 60, dependent on benefits or otherwise struggling with the cost and impact of winter.
Across the county, so far, 150 pensioner households have received, or are in the line to receive, support and demand is rising fast.
With the support of so many donors and our partners in local communities, help is already reaching those most in need and I urge anyone who needs help to approach one of our partners for support.
However we have committed all of our funds and we urgently need to raise more if we are to get help to those who need it most.
The average cost of heating a home for pensioners has doubled since 2005, which combined with rapidly growing food costs, many on fixed incomes are finding the winter harder and harder each year through no fault of their own.
For many the winter months put them in the terrible position of choosing between buying food and heating their homes. This is an awful decision that no one should ever have to face.
A couple living in a rural part of South Somerset helped by Yarlington Housing Group, said: “We are so very grateful for the donation. It will help us to pay our heating bills which are higher now that my wife is immobile and we spend the majority of time at home so need to heat the house during the day.”
A lady in her 80s with arthritis and getting by on the minimum pension credit is using her grant to buy a new winter coat to wear when she uses her mobility scooter, while a man in his 70s recovering from a stroke said that the grant will mean he can afford to run his electric heaters for longer and buy logs for his fire.
Grants are reaching people elsewhere in the county. Lorna Scott of Forum 21in West Somerset said: “We already have over 60 applications and our volunteers are out making visits, but we are still getting a couple of calls every day. Virtually all are dependent on the means tested pension credit and are really struggling with their bills this year.”
The campaign is not just about helping individuals with financial support, and the foundation has recently allocated £48,000 to over 30 local charities from a combination of the Government’s ‘Warm Homes Healthy People’ funds and Surviving Winter donations to lunch clubs, community transport groups and other essential support groups. Yeovil Day Centre, for example, has increased the number of hot meals it is able to take to people unable to attend their usual lunch club.
Donations can be made via the Somerset Community Foundation website, by using the gift aid coupon printed on page 19, or by contacting them on 01749 344949.
Every pound donated will be used to help local people in Somerset, or if you tell them where you live they will allocate to the community foundation nearest to where you live, and the costs of running the scheme will be covered by gift aid receipts from the Government.