Helping elderly people prepare for winter

Elderly people in Wiltshire can access financial support and practical advice on how to keep warm this winter.

The Surviving Winter Fund charity gives out grants of up to £200 to residents who spend significant proportions of their income on heating their homes. The council is also funding a free advice service which reminds people of practical things they can do to keep heat in their homes efficiently.

The Surviving Winter Fund is administered by the Community Foundation and provides grants for older people who use a tenth of their income on fuel during the cold winter months.

Around 28,000 Wiltshire households live in fuel poverty, spending more than 10 per cent of their annual income on heating alone. Statistics show 200 people die each year in the county from cold-related conditions.

This winter, as in previous years, Wiltshire Council will help to fund a free, impartial and local energy advice line, Warm and Safe. The advice line, provided in association with Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, will be launched in January. Call handlers will be able to offer advice on:

Simple changes in the home to reduce energy consumption or cut bills
Grants, loans or other forms of funding available for energy improvements
Understanding energy bills or help with changing suppliers
Signposting to other organisations that can offer advice.

Safety also becomes an issue as people attempt to get through the winter. Electric blankets can help you keep warm during the cold nights, but they can be a danger if not used properly – 440 injuries result from every 1,000 fires started by an electric blanket:

Never use hot water bottles in the same bed as an electric blanket, even if the blanket is switched off.

Unplug blankets before you get into bed, unless they have a thermostat control for safe all-night use.

Don’t fold up electric blankets as this damages the internal wiring. Store them flat or rolled up instead.

Keith Humphries, cabinet member for Public Health and Protection, said: “Fuel poverty is of great concern, and we know that some residents are very worried about how they are going to heat their homes this winter.

“We hope that by supporting initiatives such as Warm and Safe and Surviving Winter people will have access to the support they need.”

Maggie Rae, corporate director, said: “There are many small, practical steps people can take to heat their homes more efficiently and it is important that elderly residents in particular do all they can this winter to stay warm and well, and family, friends and neighbours all have a role to play in checking on more vulnerable people.

“We would urge residents to take advantage of the advice and support available, and don’t suffer in silence this winter.”

You can ask about the grants at Age UK and Citizens Advice Bureau offices or find further information at the Surviving Winter website at

The Warm and Safe phone line will launch officially in January, when a phone number will be publicised, ahead of the coldest months of the year.

Wiltshire Council’s Life for Living booklet is available for further winter advice. Call 0300 456 0100 to order a free copy.

Further advice on tackling fuel poverty is available from:

Age UK Wiltshire – 01380 735500
Age UK Salisbury & District – 01722 335425
Aster Living Care & Repair – Swindon 01793 940094/Wiltshire 01380 735437
CAB Wiltshire – 0844 375 2775 or 0300 456 8375 for mobiles
CAB Swindon – 0844 499 4114
Calne Community Hub – 01249 813747
Swindon Credit Unions – 01793 529938
Wiltshire Good Neighbours – 01380 732828
Wiltshire Credit Unions – 01249 248313
Tips for keeping warm over the winter:

Keep internal doors closed to stop draughts
Have at least one hot meal and hot drinks throughout the day
Layer up – several layers of clothing are best
Close curtains at dusk
Ensure your home is well insulated and that your boiler is serviced
If you have wood-burning, coal or gas heaters make sure there’s adequate ventilation. Never block air vents, and get your boiler serviced every 12 months by a gas engineer
If water pipes freeze they can burst, so make sure you know where the main stopcock is so you can turn off the water
Have your electric blanket serviced at least every three years.
Make sure your smoke alarm is working. You can ask your local fire service to check your home for fire safety. It’s free and you may be eligible to get free smoke alarms fitted
Install an audible carbon monoxide alarm in each room that has a gas appliance
Keep basic food items in the cupboard or freezer in case it’s too cold to go shopping. You could also do your food shopping online and get it delivered to your door
Eat healthily and keep as active as possible
Ask your family, neighbours or friends if they could call or visit you more often
Keep a battery-operated radio, torch and spare batteries handy in case there’s a power cut. Keep your mobile phone, laptop or tablet fully charged so you can use the battery power if there’s no electricity
Report defective paths/pavements: although pavements and footpaths are regularly inspected, there may still be some that are a trip hazard. You can report this, especially if you have fallen or nearly fallen, in several ways: online at By phone: 0300 456 0105 or email: You can also tell your local Parish Council or Area Board.