‘It’s a life-saver’ - Surviving Winter helps elderly couple out of vicious cycle of debt
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018
Walking into Frances and David Bushnell's toasty home, you would be forgiven to think they were not suffering in any way as the winter chill begins to bite.
But the couple, who live in Drayton Hall Park, off Hall Lane, Drayton, have been struggling to pay their heating bills ever since Mr Bushnell, 72, retired from work four years ago.
'When David was working it wasn't so bad,' said Mrs Bushnell, 74. 'But after he gave up work our income dropped by £350 a week.'
Their bills gradually increased every year as their health rapidly declined. They owed hundreds of pounds to their energy company and the mounting debt worried them sick.
It is with the help of the Surviving Winter campaign - which aims to tackle fuel poverty - that they were able to keep warm during the colder months, after they received £200 from the appeal through Age UK Norfolk in 2017 and again this year to pay for heating.
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'It's been a tremendous help,' said Mrs Bushnell. 'It's been an absolute life-saver.'
Their home is heated using a night storage heater, which would rack up costs of nearly £200 a month. The couple, who only receive state pension and have no savings, would pay the bill off as debt repayments every week on top of what they were using.
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This vicious cycle of debt would lead to the couple to look for alternative ways to keep warm - spending less on their food shop, making cheaper meals and putting on extra clothing in the house.
The cold weather also affects their health. Stroke survivor Mr Bushnell suffers from emphysema and was diagnosed with lung cancer last year and uses an oxygen machine to be able to breathe after.
Mrs Bushnell, suffers from bronchiectasis, a lifelong lung disease which makes her vulnerable to chest infections.
'The cold air makes it difficult to breathe,' she added.
'When we got a bill for £200, we didn't know how we'd pay it,' said Mrs Bushnell. 'My friend put us in touch with Age UK Norfolk and it was a great relief for us.
'They were able to get us attendance allowance, which we didn't know about before. 'I have been able to buy one present a week for my five grandchildren, We can't go on holidays, we gave those up, and we see people around here go on holiday but I don't mind, we have each other.'
Help elderly and vulnerable people stay warm, fed and sheltered this winter by donating to the Surviving Winter campaign.
Run by the Norfolk Community Foundation and backed by the EDP and Norwich Evening News, the campaign is aiming to raise £150,000 to tackle fuel poverty and isolation for those who struggle the most between now and the spring.
The campaign is urging older people who do not need their winter fuel allowance to donate it to those who desperately do, as many are faced with choosing between paying the bills and putting food on the table.
Funds raised in the appeal will be distributed to a range of good causes across Norfolk, including the foundation trust's key partners Age UK Norfolk, Norwich Foodbank and St Martins Housing Trust.
To donate, Visit the Surviving Winter appeal donation page at www.norfolkfoundation.com/news-events/launch-of-the-surviving-winter-appeal or call Norfolk Community Foundation on 01603 623 958.
You can donate by cheque made payable to Norfolk Community Foundation and send it to Norfolk Community Foundation, St James Mill, Whitefriars, Norwich, NR3 1TN.