180 will die in Doncaster due to fuel poverty

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A worrying 183 vulnerable older people in Doncaster will die this winter because they are living in fuel poverty, heartbreaking new figures have revealed.

Old folk who are too ‘terrified’ of extortionate energy bills to turn on their heating are most at risk of becoming ill or even losing their lives in the freezing winter months.

A report being put to Doncaster Council’s cabinet next week reveals the shocking figure and said Doncaster is the third most deprived area in the Yorkshire and Humber region, and the 39th most deprived in England.

Vickie Ferres, chief executive of Age UK Doncaster, said older people in the town are often more susceptible to heart and chest problems in the winter because many of them worked in mining and heavy industry.

She added: “This isn’t simply a Doncaster problem - it’s a national issue and an issue that has been going on since I started working with older people over 30 years ago.

“It’s a cause of major concern. Doncaster is doing a lot to try to combat fuel poverty but unfortunately that’s always tackling the symptoms and not the causes.

“Traditionally, older people spend a higher proportion of their income on heating. The fear of not being able to pay a bill is very strong for old people and the fear of getting into debt is absolutely terrifying.”

Vickie urged families and friends of older people to make sure their loved ones have well-insulated homes, flu vaccines, and get their benefits checked to make sure they are getting all they are entitled to.

She also encouraged those who don’t need their winter fuel allowance to hand it back so it can be spent on those in greater need.

Don Valley Labour MP Caroline Flint was also concerned by the figures.

She said: “This report’s evidence provides a warning to us all of the risks, particularly to the one in four pensioners who live alone.

“Those in isolation are much more vulnerable to falling ill or going without proper meals, and these risks increase if millions of vulnerable households across the country fall ever deeper into fuel poverty.”

Coun Pat Knight, Doncaster Council’s cabinet member for health and adult social care, added: “We know that every year when the cold weather arrives there are many people, particularly the elderly, who are at risk of illness caused by being too cold in their own home. Older people who may be frail or have existing health conditions are particularly at risk.

“We are shortly due to launch a winter warmth campaign. We will offer tips and advice to people on how they can stay warm. We are particularly asking people to remember the needs of friends, relatives and neighbours who could be at risk. Many people are not aware that by not keeping warm they are putting themselves in danger.

“As well as this, we are orchestrating an extensive scheme by energy companies who are installing and providing free insulation to properties. When the scheme is coming to an area, residents will receive a letter and a council officer will go to their doors to sign them up.”

Call the council’s energy team on 01302 737 053 if you need help or advice.

Top 10 tips to keep warm and well this winter:

1. Don’t let the cold catch you out - check the weather forecast and be ready for cold weather.

2. Hot meals will keep you snug and warm so make sure you have food in the house.

3. Have plenty of hot drinks like tea, coffee or hot water as they will help to keep you warm.

4. Make sure you have enough of your prescription medicines. If the weather turns you may not be able to collect or have your medicines delivered.

5. Make sure you have your flu jab. People over 65 or people with existing medical conditions get this for free.

6. Make sure you can check the temperature in your living room and bedroom. If possible have a simple thermometer or set your heating controls to the right temperature.

7. Wear a few layers of thin clothing rather than one thick layer; this will trap the heat better to keep you warm.

8. Cover yourself with a blanket or shawl if you are sitting for long periods.

9. Tuck curtains behind radiators to keep the heat in the room.

10. Keep moving if you can, it will help keep you warm.