This piece first appeared in The Daily Telegraph on 8 December 2000
The text here may not be identical to the published text
Generous readers of The Daily Telegraph gave £56,000 to help poorer pensioners cope with the winter cold last year. And there is new evidence that your generosity could save lives.
Figures released recently by the Government show that last winter 44,000 people over 65 died of cold-related illnesses. The Secretary of State for social security Alistair Darling told Parliament "The rate of mortality among elderly people [in winter] is far too high. That is why we introduced the Winter Fuel Payment."
The Governmentís scheme has been running for the past three years and each year Your Money has invited people who do not need all the cash to donate it to those who do. Although the amount has been doubled this year, it is even more important that people who do not need their £200 tax-free payment Ė or could afford to share it with those who are worse off Ė send what they can afford to the The Daily Telegraph Warm Hearts campaign, run with the charity Help the Aged.
Last year nearly 500 generous and thoughtful readers sent us £56,000. And it was used to help people who needed it directly. Nellie Wilson lives in Ballyclare, about 14 miles north of Belfast. It is a cold part of the country and the problems of heating homes in the winter are made worse because there is no piped gas supply in most of Northern Ireland. Mrs Wilson, aged 78, has lived alone since her husband died eight years ago and she is suffering this year from the rising price of oil for her central heating.
"I have arthritis and angina as well as blood clotting. I take warfarin, so I have to keep warm. And that is very expensive now that oil has gone up. Last February a fill of oil cost me £90. I just had it filled and again and the bill was £201.90. Coal has gone up too though I donít use the coal fire because I canít clean it now. So I rely on oil but even that I canít afford. To keep warm all the time I would have to run the boiler all day every day and I would have to get a fill of oil every two months. I canít afford that at £200 a go! So I have an immersion heater and turn that on when I need hot water and I have a calor gas heater for the sitting room, but that costs £12.50 a tank now."
She is very pleased to be getting £200 from the Government which will just about pay for one Ďfillí of her oil tank. But last year she needed more and this year will be the same.
"There are 40 of us in our Doagh Road Senior Citizens Club, I am one who runs it, and we were all very grateful when Help the Aged gave us £25 towards our electricity bill. It helped us stay warmer and if we are lucky enough to get it again it will help this winter too. But we donít know if we will. We donít want to be greedy and thereís lots of needy people besides us. I am sure anyone who does get extra help will appreciate it."
Not all the people who give away the money are wealthy. They just feel that they do not need it to keep warm in the winter.
Help The Aged Director General Michael Lake told Your Money
"Help the Aged research shows that over one million older people feel trapped in their own homes, mainly because of poverty and chronic ill health. Itís vital that these particularly vulnerable people can keep the heating on for as long as they need during the long winter months. The Warm Hearts Appeal has made a crucial difference to thousands of pensioners for whom every penny counts. Over the last two years, we have been inundated with thank you letters from older people who struggle to make ends meet and whose Warm Hearts Credit helps to ease the financial worry over the winter. Help the Aged would like to thank all the Telegraph readers who have given so generously over the last two years. This yearís Warm Hearts Appeal will be just as important to older people living on the breadline."
As the Winter Fuel Payments are sent out Ė and the Department of Social Security is about half way through Ė why not consider giving all or part of yours to The Daily Telegraph Help the Aged Warm Hearts Appeal? It will be well used. Last year more than 250 readers gave the whole payment; and over 200 gave a share of it. This year we are hoping to do even better Ė especially among men. Last year women were more generous than men in a ratio of two to one.
Send a cheque, payable to Help the Aged, to Lisa Burton, Help the Aged, Freepost Lon 13041, PO Box 203, London EC1B 1DG or ring the Warm Hearts appeal line on 020 7250 4481 weekdays 8.30am to 5pm. Anyone with queries about the winter fuel payment can ring the Department of Social Security at local rates on 08459 15 15 15.
8 December 2000