New bid to tackle winter deaths

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A NEW initiative to combat cold homes and reduce an alarming increase in winter deaths in Northumberland has been hailed as a red hot success.

A total of 30,000 homes in the North of Tyne area, including in the county, were identified as being at risk and steps were taken to protect them over the winter months.

More than 100 frontline trained staff and a dedicated ‘one stop shop’ phone line ensured that vulnerable residents were given the right advice and where needed, insulation measures for their homes.

The campaign involved local authorities, Citizens Advice Bureau, Warm Zones, Age UK, Primary Health Trusts, Health through Warmth and the Home Improvement Agency.

Director of Northumberland Warm Zones, Alan Milburn, said: “In the bad weather of 2010, winter deaths increased by a staggering 26 per cent.

“The severe cold weather is dangerous, especially for vulnerable people such as the elderly, the very young and people with serious illnesses or a disability.

“The initiative has prepared us all by working together and anything we can do to reduce this terrible statistic can only be good news. We are hopeful that the scheme will continue.”

Warm Zones in the North East can offer free loft and cavity wall insulation meaning that vulnerable and elderly people don’t have to endure the cold.

As well as making a property substantially warmer, a properly insulated loft can lead to savings of about £120 off the cost of a typical home’s heating bills and coupled with cavity wall insulation, the savings can amount to as much as £300.

“This joined up approach really worked well in the winter,” said Mr Milburn.

“Talking to and learning from our partner organisations will pay dividends in the future for the thousands of people who still suffer from the effects of fuel poverty and we are grateful to the many organisations who have pledged their support and expertise.”