Thousands of people die from cold-related illnesses every winter and numbers are rising, but in Luton, Age Concern is helping to buck the trend.
Around 100 people in Luton died in winter in 2009/10 and 2011/12, but by 2012/13 this had dropped to 70, which Age Concern believe is partly due to their innovative emergency heating scheme.
The charity says it’s “a scandal that anyone dies of cold in 2013” and is asking for support for the scheme.
Age Concern Luton director Colette Mckeaveney said: “It’s simple but it’s innovative. We loan people an electric heater and we give them a fuel voucher to pay for it. I believe a large part of the reduction in winter deaths in Luton is down to our free emergency heating loan. That’s the one thing that is different in Luton and that’s why nationally the figures went up in 12/13 to 31,000 deaths but in Luton it went down. Something so simple is making a big difference.”
Age Concern Luton provides the heaters for people when they have no heating at all in their house, such as when their boiler is broken and they can’t afford to repair it.
Colette said: “We get a heater out to a household within two hours of them contacting us. We don’t waste time with forms and visits, we just put a heater in their home, give them the fuel voucher, and that’s it. Meanwhile our handymen will work with the council to sort out any repairs.”
Last year Age Concern spent about £11,000 on heaters and fuel vouchers, and sent out around 100 radiators a week during the coldest spells,
The government is set to officially announce plans to cut energy bills by an average of £50 a year tomorrow.
Colette said: “That would be welcome but the reality is it’s not enough. If you are at home all day as many older people are, it costs a lot to heat the house. Old bodies can’t manage the cold as much and many people are bed-bound or frail so can’t move around to keep warm. Giving them a heater is just common sense. Then they’re not going to hospital for all these cold-related illnesses. Luton has bucked the trend because of this. Every town should do it.”
Luton is rated 33rd out of 455 local authorities in England and Wales for highest number of winter deaths.
Of the 25,000 average in the UK who die due to cold related illnesses every winter, around 19,500 of these are over 75.
To support Age Concern, donate via http://ageconcernluton.org.uk/ or visit an Age Concern shop: 57 Birdsfoot Lane or 9 Market Square, Farley Hill.