This piece first appeared in The Daily Telegraph on 13 February 1999
The text here may not be identical to the published text

Warm hearts keep the home fires burning

Film and TV stars respond to Daily Telegraph appeal

The Government has just finished paying out £200m to around 10 million people aged 60 or more to help with their winter fuel bills. The final payments of £20 per household went out last week. But as we reported in January, many Daily Telegraph readers have decided they do not need the money and are giving it to charity to help others who do need extra cash to keep warm. Already nearly 900 readers have decided to give away their £20 payments, raising nearly £18,000 for the Daily Telegraph/Help the Aged Warm Hearts Appeal. Now they are being joined by actors and actresses.

One is Sylvia Syms. She has appeared in nearly 50 films including The Tamarind Seed, Ice Station Alex and Shirley Valentine and recently seen on television in Heartbeat and the Ruth Rendell Mysteries. She describes herself as a 'youngster' - but she is old enough to qualify for the payment! - and has just sent her £20 to the Warm Hearts Appeal.

"I thought well, we're all jolly lucky I mean I live in a warm comfortable house, I have no mortgage and although I don't have a private pension I still work and I don't need this £20 at the moment. That's not to say I won’t some day of course! You see there are lots of things you need in winter if it's cold and you haven’t got a warm house. We're not extra virtuous or rich we just want to help. Several of us have given it already and I’m sure we'll squeeze it out of a few others."

One of those is Jean Anderson, still remembered for her role as Jocelyn Holbrook in the television series Tenko but still working at 91 - most recently in Casualty and Keeping Mum on BBC television.

"It wasn’t that I wasn’t pleased to get it, I was. But then I thought there are other people worse off than I am. I’m not rich but when you hear about those poor things - and I mean poor - without a fire and so on they need it more than me. I've been cold in my work over the years so I know what it's like but you can cope with it when you're young. I’m lucky not to have to worry about it now. I'm still working. I live on my earnings as I always have. I don't have to keep anyone else and I can pay my heating bills. So I thought why not give it to people who need it more than I do?"

The man who makes sure the money goes to people who need it is Michael Lake, Help the Aged's Director.

"It is particularly heartening to see stage and screen performers get behind the Daily Telegraph appeal. The weather is turning harsh again and Help the Aged is deeply concerned about older people living without much money unable to heat their homes properly. Money raised through the Warm Hearts Appeal will go directly to vulnerable older people in grants and to provide extra funding for day centres which provide meals - and a warm place to go - for isolated pensioners."

Older people who are lucky enough to be able to live in a warm home who want to give their £20 Winter Fuel Payment to those who are not can send a cheque made payable to Help the Aged to : Lisa Burton, Help the Aged, Freepost Lon 13041, PO Box 203 London EC1B 1DG. Or telephone the special Warm Hearts telephone line open 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday on 0171 250 4481.

The Winter Fuel Payment was introduced last winter as part of the Government's spending plans for older people. It is a cash payment for people over pension age who get retirement pension, widow's pension or some other benefits such as attendance allowance or a war disablement pension. It is paid at three rates.

Anyone with any questions of problems with the payments should contact the Benefits Agency's Winter Fuel Payments Helpline 0645 15 15 15 which is open on weekdays from 8.30am to 4.30pm until the end of March. Calls are charged at local rates.

13 February 1999

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