Community Energy Plus News

Winter Wellness launches free helpline to offer support to those in most need

Winter Wellness, a project to ensure that vulnerable householders in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have direct access to the advice and practical support they need to stay warm and well this winter, has launched a freephone number for those worried about their homes being cold and damp. Householders are urged to call freephone 0800 954 1956 to speak to trained advisors for advice and access to services to help them.

The Winter Wellness project, co-ordinated by Cornwall Council, is seeing of a range of organisations working with the elderly, young families and individuals in poor health, join forces to provide a co-ordinated response to the cold weather.  The purpose of the project is to help prevent vulnerable householders from falling ill from living in a cold or damp home.

Advice on insulation, heating and managing energy bills, is available along with practical support, targeted to help those in the greatest need for help to heat their homes.

Frontline health and social workers, along with a network of advice agencies in Cornwall and Scilly, are being encouraged to make referrals to the project and ensure that vulnerable householders don’t get caught out by the cold weather this winter.

Winter Wellness is a partnership which includes Cornwall Council and Council of the Isles of Scilly, NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, Age UK Cornwall & The Isles of Scilly, Community Energy Plus, Citizens Advice Bureau, Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum, Cornwall Community Foundation, Cornwall Rural Community Council, Cornwall Works, Truro Homeless Action Group, Home Improvement Agencies, St Petrocs, Cornwall Drug and Alcohol Team and New Connection.

Community Energy Plus is the initial contact point for information and will make referrals to other services – Freephone 0800 954 1956.  The social enterprise will be providing advice about staying warm and combatting damp and mould as well as assisting vulnerable householders with applications for insulation and heating schemes.

Ian Smith, Managing Director of Community Energy Plus says: “This project is seeing a number of organisations working together to provide joined-up support for those at the greatest risk of illness from living in a cold or damp home.  We want to make it simple for frontline health and social workers, advice agencies and vulnerable householders to be able to quickly access advice or practical help.  While this project is due to finish at the end of March, the lasting legacy will be the closer co-ordination between partners to help their clients benefit from warmer, healthier homes.”

Felicity Owen, Director of Public Health for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, said: “Prevention work to help vulnerable individuals to enjoy the benefits of a warmer home will help to save lives and prevent illnesses, including heart conditions and respiratory infections, which will in turn affect the number of GP visits.”

Winter Wellbeing guides have been produced as part of the project, which are available via the freephone number or online, giving straightforward advice about staying warm, well, and safe this winter. It is packed full of practical advice, including details of the grants available for insulation, and highlights the risks of low temperatures and high humidity in homes.

For householders who find themselves in need of urgent help, emergency keep warm boxes, fuel supplies and electric heaters can be supplied to ensure that those at greatest risk of health problems triggered by the cold are kept warm and well.  The home improvement agencies will also be equipped with rock salt and snow shovels to clear paths of vulnerable individuals to help carers to gain access in icy conditions.

Cornwall Council cabinet member for health and well being Carolyn Rule said: “I urge people who are worried about keeping warm this winter to make that call now and find out what help is on offer. All the agencies involved are committed to working together to target support to those in most need and at most risk. By having the one freephone number, we will be able to ensure that vulnerable people are directed to the service most able to help them.”

The partnership won over £140,000 of funding from the Department of Health’s Warm Homes Healthy People fund for the campaign which aims to reduce preventable winter deaths and protect some of the most vulnerable people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly from the health issues caused by cold weather, and in particular problems from living in a cold home as a consequence of fuel poverty.

Additional project information

Each year, more than 300 people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are believed to die needlessly as a result of cold homes and freezing winter weather.
The project provides a comprehensive package of advice and guidance for vulnerable people at risk of preventable excess winter deaths and morbidity due to cold, damp living conditions. This will provide direct immediate help to at-risk individuals this winter.
Project activities include:    
• A co-ordinated multi agency approach to enquiries relating to cold, damp housing through the Community Energy Plus advice centre.
• Cross-referral mechanisms between frontline workers to ensure vulnerable clients receive coordinated support.
• Free, impartial advice for older and vulnerable people regarding cold, damp and mould. Provision of hygrometers and thermometer cards to support behaviour change. Assistance with insulation and heating grants. Specialist advice and support for vulnerable occupants of Park Homes and private rented accommodation.
• Cornwall Community Foundation is currently providing 500 emergency electricity top-up support to families in crisis and deprivation.  Families should contact their local CAB office to gain immediate support.
• A coordinated marketing/ public health campaign and on-line resource regarding winter health.
• Provision of Winter Well Being Guide
• Get Well Stay Well: team of Age UK Cornwall volunteers working with vulnerable people to enable them to live independently.
• Stay Plugged In – CAB led work to address risks associated with falls, heating, diet, etc.  Also advice regarding fuel debt, repayment negotiation and income maximization.
• Working in partnership with St Petrocs to ensure the homeless have a roof over their head during cold winter nights and are supported to access health services and secure long term housing solutions. 
• Winter Summit with Voluntary and Community Sector, business and public sector to develop a plan for winter 2012/13.  
• The Handyperson Services and Home Improvement Agencies will ensure that the elderly and disabled are kept safe and warm during the winter by providing Keep Warm Boxes, clearing snow from paths and undertaking free home safety checks.