Partnership bids to save lives this winter

A NEW partnership has been formed to help people stay safe and warm this winter.

The North of Tyne Winter Warmth Partnership (NTWWP) aims to reduce the number of deaths of vulnerable residents due to cold following a worrying 26 per cent increase in winter deaths in the region last year.

The North East increase was the largest of any region and went against the trend of an overall drop in deaths across England and Wales.

Now councils in Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle have secured £185,000 from the Government’s Warm Homes, Healthy People fund to tackle the problem.

The partnership will target help towards the most vulnerable, providing a helpline and text alert service and making sure information and advice is easily accessible.

There will also be practical help, such as free insulation, draught proofing and benefit advice.

Northumberland County Council Executive Member for Planning, Housing and Regeneration Tom Brechany said: “This new partnership is about preventing our most vulnerable people from becoming ill or experiencing reductions in wellbeing as a result of cold living conditions.

“Our message is a clear one – that cold homes can lead to ill health and in some cases death.

“We are aware that in these economic times and with rising fuel prices it can be difficult to make sure homes are warm, but there is help available to draught proof and insulate to keep costs down.

“We will be targeting our most vulnerable households with information to ensure they are able to get advice, support and assistance to help them keep warm and well in these winter months.”

The new group will share data held by councils, health groups, Warm Zones, Age UK, home care providers and community groups to target the 30,000 most vulnerable homes, and provide training for 100 frontline staff to create Winter Warmth Champions, who will identify and support people at risk.

It will also deliver warm home checks to around 3,000 properties, secure free insulation, heating services and draught proofing, establish a dedicated helpline and text service and use community groups to circulate information.

Severe cold weather can be particularly dangerous for older or disabled people, those with serious illnesses and young children, and can increase the likelihood of heart attack or stroke.

People with existing respiratory conditions may develop complications.

Living in temperatures under 16 degrees can diminish resistance to respiratory diseases, increase blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, and living in temperatures of five degrees poses a high risk of hypothermia.

Tips on keeping well in the cold include closing curtains and shutting doors in the home to keep heat in, using hot water bottles or electric blankets, eating well, wrapping up warm with layers of clothing, staying indoors in cold weather if you have heart or breathing problems, and keeping active.