Staying warm can be a matter of life and death

Stay Safe & WarmA MAJOR campaign to help people across Teesside stay safe and warm in their homes during the cold winter months will be launched later this week.

Latest figures show that in 2011/12 over 31,000 people in the UK died because they couldn’t keep warm in their own homes – up 29% on the year before.

This is due to either faulty heating or because worries about the cost of fuel force people to turn their heating off or down to unsafe levels or because they use cheaper or less safe forms of heating which can cause fires. The elderly, disabled and those with long-term illness are most at risk.

With an estimated 26,000 Teesside households currently living in fuel poverty, the annual ‘Stay Safe and Warm’ campaign will be launched at Cleveland Fire Brigade Headquarters in Stockton Road on Wednesday 1st October. The launch is taking place at the same time as the International Day of Older Persons and the Chief Fire Officers Association’s Ageing Safely Week.

Led by the Fire Brigade, ‘Stay Safe and Warm’ raises awareness of the dangers faced by people struggling to keep warm, provides emergency assistance and helps to find longer-term solutions.

The other project partners are the Hartlepool, Stockton, Redcar & Cleveland and Middlesbrough Councils, South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group, Middlesbrough Environment City, Public Health and Adult and Children’s Social Care.

They work together to identify people at risk and give them advice and support, ranging from organising safe, temporary heating to helping people get specialist guidance on managing their fuel bills. Where appropriate, they will put people in touch with initiatives which can help provide free boiler repairs or replacement.

Last year’s campaign helped 620 people and included lending out 397 electric heaters and 61 thermal blankets.

One of those helped was 94-year-old Mrs Irene Green of Stockton, who was facing a ten-day wait for a replacement after her boiler broke down last November.

She said: “I wrapped myself in a coat and blanket but it was still terribly cold. I wondered how on earth I was going to cope – in my 90s and with breathing difficulties.

“Then I remembered the Stay Safe and Warm leaflet which the Fire Brigade had put through my door. I gave them a call and they lent me two big room heaters which were marvellous and kept my rooms lovely and warm until the boiler was replaced.

“I owe a great debt of gratitude to the Fire Brigade for the help they gave me, and they can do it for you too if you need it – just give them a call.”

Phil Lancaster, the Brigade’s Director of Community Protection, said: “Being able to keep warm at home during cold weather can literally be a matter of life and death. Nobody should be in that position.

“Help from Stay Safe and Warm is available to anyone who is struggling. It’s free and there’s no means testing, eligibility criteria or age restrictions.

“Anyone who is worried that they might not be able to heat their home properly or is concerned about a family member, friend or neighbour should call the Stay Safe and Warm team straight away – please don’t delay.”

The Stay Safe and Warm team can be contacted on 01429 874063. For more information visit www.clevelandfire.gov.uk/warm