With fuel prices rising and the Covid-19 pandemic still impacting on people’s lives, the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Foundation (HIWCF) has launched the Surviving Winter Campaign 2021-2022 to help tackle fuel poverty for older people struggling to keep warm during the coldest months. Families, individuals and businesses wishing to help can make a donation on www.justgiving.com/campaign/SurvivingWinter2021-22

It is extremely challenging for people living within limited financial means to afford rising fuel bills and top-ups for their prepayment meters. Many find themselves in the difficult situation of choosing to either keep warm or buy food. Recent government statistics indicate that 8,500 people died across England and Wales last winter due to cold homes.

As well as raising funds from the general public, the Surviving Winter Campaign asks those in receipt of the Government’s Annual Winter Fuel Payment to donate their payment, if they are in a position to be able to do so, to help those needing help to keep warm across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

In the past five years, the HIWCF Surviving Winter Campaign has raised over £38,000 to support local people, and since the campaign began ten years ago, grants have supported 488 vulnerable people and families across the region.

HIWCF partners with Citizens Advice Hampshire and The Footprint Trust Isle of Wight to award the Surviving Winter grants, which help vulnerable people to stay warm, eat well and remain mobile, including practical assistance with travel to medical appointments and support with shopping for essential medication and groceries.

Last winter, as Covid-19 cases and deaths reached their highest peak, Citizens Advice Hampshire were able to support 56 local families with food, heat, arrears and clothing thanks to donations made to the Surviving Winter Campaign.

One of these grants supported a lady bringing up her grandchildren, following the death of her son from a brain tumour. The lady is in receipt of the state pension, and Citizens Advice were able to provide a Surviving Winter grant and also offer advice on submitting an application for a pension credit, helping to make things a little easier for the family.

Jo Hillier, Chief Executive at Citizens Advice Hampshire said “Citizens Advice Hampshire are pleased to be working with HIWCF to ensure the Surviving Winter Fund reaches Hampshire and Isle of Wight elderly residents that need it the most this winter. We are particularly concerned about elderly people on the lowest incomes who will be hit by a double whammy of financial hardship: rising energy costs and a higher cost of living due to inflation. The Surviving Winter fund will enable us to offer quick and direct help to those affected.”

Jacqui Scott, HIWCF Chief Executive said: “The Surviving Winter Campaign relies on generous donations from the public, where we also ask residents in our communities to either recycle their Government Winter Fuel Payment if they are able to do so, or make a much needed donation to support the campaign. It is shocking to think that people may die in the UK because they cannot afford to heat their homes and with National Energy Action warning that the average price increases for prepayment customers and for those paying by direct debit using a default tariff is likely to result in higher utility debt, 500,000 extra households in fuel poverty and an increase in preventable deaths this winter it is vital that we support vulnerable local people struggling with fuel poverty this winter.”

HIWCF can accept cheque donations for the Surviving Winter campaign, please post to: The Chief Executive, Surviving Winter Campaign, HIWCF, The Orchard, White Hart Lane, Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG21 4AF, (cheque payable to Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Foundation).

Taxpayers donating by cheque may also wish to increase their donation, if eligible, by completing a Gift Aid Form, available on the HIWCF website: www.hiwcf.org.uk/gift-aid-declaration-online-form/

For more information on applying for a grant from the Surviving Winter Fund, please visit Citizens Advice Hampshire’s website on www.citahants.org. Residents on the Isle of Wight can contact The Footprint Trust by email on info@footprint-trust.co.uk