27,000 people die unnecessarily in England each winter according to a 2011 report - and winter-related disease caused by cold private housing costs the NHS an estimated £850 million a year.
Now in its second year, 'Hitting the Cold Spots' is Hampshire County Council's response to winter fuel poverty and builds on last year's successful scheme, funded through the Department of Health's 'Warm Homes and Healthy People' fund. This year's campaign was launched by Hampshire County Council at the Winchester Discovery Centre on 1 October 2012 when local organisations were invited to see how cold weather affects older and vulnerable people and what practical and immediate help and advice is available to keep warm and reduce bills.
When the temperature plunges, the major killer is not hypothermia but existing health conditions that are exacerbated by cold and damp such as cardiac disease, strokes and respiratory problems. Hitting the Cold Spots works with a network of partners and local voluntary community organisations to show how the conditions in which people are living could be improved, help reduce the amount they pay for heating and increase their available income. It aims to reach older people and vulnerable people of any age - especially those who live in fuel poverty but 'fall beneath the radar', either because they are unaware of the range of options available or unable to access them.
Mrs A, aged 70, lives alone in an isolated, rural property with no mains gas.
Mrs A was without heating or hot water due to a broken immersion heater, a damaged hot water tank and a broken thermostat. In addition she had no money to fill her external gas tank or buy wood for her wood burning stove. Her health was poor due to heart problems, asthma and impaired mobility caused by arthritis.
A Hitting the Cold Spots advisor visited her at home to assess her situation and provide a range of options to improve her living conditions. Follow up actions included
The easy way to find out more information is to call the dedicated freephone Advice Line 0800 804 8601 where one of the Hampshire-based, friendly and knowledgeable energy advisors from the Environment Centre will be able to give immediate, impartial and practical help.
The campaign includes:
There are also 10,000 information packs - available via local voluntary community organisations - which include a room thermometer, cosy snood, children's activity pack and useful information. The easiest way for community groups to get more information on how to become involved, and on all aspects of Hitting the Cold Spots, is to call the freephone Advice Line.
Executive Member for Hampshire County Council's Adult Social Care, Councillor Felicity Hindson said:
"I know it can be a worry for older people and families when there are heating bills to be paid or the boiler breaks down. Hitting the Cold Spots offers immediate, practical help such as free Home Safety visits, help with boiler repairs, carbon monoxide detectors and small grants to cope with winter emergencies. It also offers sustainable help to reduce fuel poverty in subsequent years with advice on switching suppliers, financial advice on debt and benefits and home insulation.
We have been working with a wide range of partners from both the voluntary and private sectors to offer this practical and financial support. Our dedicated freephone advice line offers a real person at the end of the phone who can give immediate advice or arrange for an advisor to visit."