Yorkshire: How to conquer the cold

As wintry weather grips the UK, everyone is battling with the effects of the cold. However for the elderly or the vulnerable, keeping warm can literally be a matter of life and death.

Katie Baldwin reports...

When his boiler broke down last winter, Frederick Hemmings was worried

about how he was going to get it fixed.

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The 71-year-old had experienced various problems with it and eventually it was condemned.

That left him with only a gas fire and an electric shower at his home in Harehills, nowhere near enough heating and hot water, especially for someone with arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Thankfully Health Through Warmth came to his rescue.

The scheme, along with funding from a charity and another scheme, paid for his boiler to be replaced.

Mr Hemmings said: "If they had not helped me out, I would have been frozen.

"Within four weeks I was able to keep warm. I am indebted to them.

"They did a very good job of helping me out."

Health Through Warmth was set up by Npower in partnership with the NHS and National Energy Action.

In Leeds it is run by home improvement organisation Care and Repair and provides funding which comes from Npower and can be topped up by other charity grants and schemes, and in some cases a contribution from the client.

The aim is to improve the living conditions of those who have illnesses related to the cold or damp and who don't have adequate heating or insulation.

Sharon Brooks, falls prevention co-ordinator at Care and Repair, said many people could have income just above the level of being eligible for means-tested benefits but could still be struggling.

Referrals can come from people themselves, the NHS, council social care workers or from the other services which Care and Repair provide.

Mrs Brooks said it was very important that the vulnerable groups of people they worked with kept warm.

"The colder you are, the more chance you have of having pneumonia, heart problems or a stroke," she said.

"If you are not able to keep yourself warm, it can contribute to further health problems."

Arthritis was also worsened by the cold, she added.

"If you are not warm and your arthritis is playing up, it can affect your mobility.

"If you are cold you have got more chance of having falls. It's not just about outside, but also inside."

Mrs Brooks said they had visited clients who were terrified of putting the heating on and were forced to wrap up in layer upon layer in their

own homes.

"One of the things we are looking at is educating older people. Central heating does not cost as much as you think," she added.

"If it means putting on more cardigans or keeping the heating on, but on a lower level - the thing is to keep constantly warm."

* For information about Health Through Warmth, call 0113 3918336 or log on to www.care-repair-leeds.org.uk for details of the scheme and others which Care and Repair runs to promote independent living.

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