SOUTH Tyneside Council has grabbed £120,000 to keep the borough’s older generation safe and warm this winter.
The windfall, secured after a bid to the Department of Health’s ‘Warm Homes, Healthy People’ fund, is being used to tackle winter deaths, illness, reduce social isolation and fight fuel poverty.
The fund will target the most vulnerable people in the borough, including those aged over 65 people with existing medical conditions or limited mobility, young children and people living in deprived circumstances.
Yesterday, at the Tavistock Italia Retro restaurant in Stanhope Road, South Shields, older people were already feeling the benefit of the windfall – with a free Christmas meal funded through the initiative.
And tomorrow the first in a series of Age UK winter awareness events is being staged at South Shields Central Library from 10am to 4pm, where 10 free electric blankets will be handed out, in addition to the distribution of winter awareness packs, giving advice on nutrition and how to keep your home warm this winter.
Coun Jim Foreman, the council’s lead member for housing and regeneration, said “We know that poorly heated homes can have a major impact on health. With gas and electricity prices constantly on the rise, paying fuel bills is a big concern for a lot of residents who can’t afford to adequately heat their homes.
“We will work alongside our partners to ensure that this fund provides practical help to the people who need it most during winter.”
John Briers, chief executive of Age UK South Tyneside, commented: “Winter can be a dangerous time for older people, and it’s not just the extreme weather conditions that can kill. The cold is a huge health risk for older people, leading to thousands of preventable deaths and hospital admissions every year.”
The money will complement support available through other programmes, including Warm Front, Warm Zone and the flu vaccination programme.
The council is working alongside its partners to implement the project, including Age UK South Tyneside, the borough’s Primary Care Trust, Affordable Warmth Partnership, South Tyneside Homes, Local Resilience Forum, NHS, South Tyneside Warm Zone, Health Through Warmth Programme and Healthy Living Pharmacies.
Further winter awareness sessions are to be staged on Monday at Cleadon Park Library and on Wednesday at Hebburn Library, both from 10am to 4pm.
For more information on Age UK South Tyneside services, call 456 6903.
Meanwhile, discounted loft and cavity wall insulation measures are available for private homeowners or those who rent from a private landlord – contact South Tyneside Warm Zone on 424 7914 for further information on grant availability.
Help with heating system repairs is also available to those with a cold or damp related health condition.
For further information, contact the ‘Health Through Warmth’ programme on 211 5975.
WHAT IT WILL HELP PAY FOR
* Increasing information and advice services, including access to a hotline from 8am to 7pm for emergencies.
* Providing ‘Winter Wrapped Up’ information guides with tips on how to stay warm in your home, recipe books and thermometers so older people know when to turn on their heating.
* Offering benefit checks to ease financial worries.
* Energy-efficiency checks, heater loan services and support with boiler repairs/replacements.
* Increasing home from hospital, handy person and falls prevention services.
* Emergency support including snow clearing, transport to health appointments, cooking meals, shopping, home visits and befriending.
* Holding 12 Winter Awareness roadshows and flu jab clinics in community venues across South Tyneside.
* Supporting 250 isolated older people to attend Christmas dinners.
* Co-ordinating local hubs to prevent social isolation and help older people to get essentials.
* Recruitment and training of volunteers.