Money floods in to help Norfolk’s elderly pay their heating bills

Hundreds of grants have been made to some of Norfolk's neediest elderly people, as money floods in to an appeal to help them meet their heating bills.

More than �20,000 has come flooding in to the Surviving Winter Appeal, launched two weeks ago by Age UK Norfolk, the Norfolk Community Foundation and the EDP.

'This is quite simply the best appeal we've ever had,' said community foundation director Graham Tuttle. 'It's really got to people this year.'

Mr Tuttle said more than 200 grants had already been paid out since the launch of the appeal. Thousands across the region have been left struggling to cope with rising fuel costs, while winter fuel allowances have fallen between �50 and �100.

Just a few hundred pounds can make all the difference for those struggling to make ends meet and stay warm.

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Pensioners Geoffrey and Phyllis Spinks, from Walcott, received a �200 cheque towards the cost of 500 litres of heating oil which they hope will see them through to February.

Four years ago, when they had the tank installed, that �200 would have paid the bill with plenty to spare.

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The couple's rented home of 46 years has no mains gas, meaning they are at the mercy of rising oil prices.

Mr Spinks, 81, remembers paying �130 for the first 500lt delivery. This time the bill was �347 - an increase of 167pc.

They budget on a combined old age pension of �240 a week. Mr Spinks had hoped that now he is over 80, they would receive a �400 Winter Fuel Payment this year but the amount has been slashed by �100.

'You have got to watch your money all the time to save enough for your oil. We manage and we eat, but we don't buy luxuries - only what we need,' said Mrs Spinks, 76. 'When it gets cold I stick a cardigan on and if it's too cold, we go to bed.'

Each month the couple set aside the meagre amount left, after paying all other vital bills, towards oil but Mrs Spinks said it took a long time to save enough.

Research suggests there are more than 60,000 households in fuel poverty - spending more than 10pc of their income on keeping warm - in Norfolk alone. North Norfolk and Yarmouth are the worst-affected areas.

Charities fear more and more will fall into the poverty trap as bills rise and incomes fall.

Many in rural areas - like the Geoffrey and Phyllis Spinks - depend on heating oil, meaning they must buy in bulk. Prices rose by 44pc last winter.

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