Help elderly and vulnerable people stay warm this winter
- Credit: PA
For thousands of people in Norfolk, winter is the most difficult time of the year.
Many vulnerable people living on the edge of the poverty line will have to choose between feeding themselves and paying the bills, and, as the days get shorter and nights gets colder, many will be forced to choose the latter.
For the elderly, the harsh weather acts as a barrier in their normal day-to-day life and many are left trapped in their own home.
But a winter campaign has been launched to help those experiencing fuel poverty and lend a helping hand to those isolated in the darkness.
Norfolk Community Foundation is hoping to raise £150,000 for its Surviving Winter appeal and is urging the people of Norfolk to support those in their community who will struggle the most between now and the spring.
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The charity has been providing funding to grassroots charities and community groups for more than 15 years. This year, it is working with partners Age UK Norfolk, Norwich Foodbank and St Martins Housing to ensure all the money raised goes straight to the people who need it most.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show there were 390 more deaths in Norfolk during winter than any other time of the year during 2015/2016.
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The data showed a significant rise in winter deaths across the region with 4,200 recorded in the East of England during 2016/2017- the second highest level for five years.
Rural parts of Britain, such as Norfolk, experience high rates of excess winter deaths because homes tend to be older with poorer insulation and so are more difficult to keep warm.
One elderly woman, known simply as Jenny, found her pension income barely covered costs at her sheltered home.
She heard about the appeal from a member of staff from Age UK Norfolk and received a grant to pay for additional heating costs. 'I was in the heat or eat situation,' she said. 'The grant has made an enormous difference, it has helped with the stress I have of a low income.
'I am so grateful, without the grant I would have got even more in debt with more stress and this is and will affect my health.'
Whilst for many people Christmas will be a time of luxury and excess, for others the festive period, and following months, is a time of extreme worry.
Surviving Winter partner Norwich Foodbank supports individuals and families who find themselves on the edge of disaster through the provision of emergency food supplies.
They received a referral for a family with children where the dad worked full time, but due to debts and bills, there was more going out than coming in so they were given a foodbank parcel and a voucher for gas and electricity in January.
Since then, his hours have changed and wages increased and the family are no longer in need of support.
The father thanked Norwich Foodbank for the vouchers, adding: 'People were so friendly and helpful. I am so grateful for you letting us have them.
'It has taken a big weight off my shoulders this week with now having electric and food to feed the kids. Thank you again.'
Chief executive Claire Cullens said: 'When we think of surviving winter, most people picture elderly people struggling to stay warm.
'Previously, we have asked older people who don't need their winter fuel allowance to donate it to those who desperately do.
'But, the range of people in need is much broader than just the elderly, and numbers are growing dramatically every year.
'From families on low incomes struggling to pay their fuel bills, to those living on the street: from elderly people facing months of isolation and loneliness, to single people in poorly paid jobs and struggling to make ends meet: winter can be a frightening prospect for so many.'
To donate, visit the Surviving Winter appeal donation page, or you can make a cheque payable to Norfolk Community Foundation and send it to Norfolk Community Foundation, St. James Mill, Whitefriars, Norwich, NR3 1TN.
For more information about the Norfolk Community Foundation Surviving Winter appeal visit www.norfolkfoundation.com.