Householders’ heating help

Councilor Carl Richardson
Councilor Carl Richardson

DOZENS of homes have benefited from a pot of funding aimed at cutting the number of excess winter deaths.

The Government’s Warm Homes, Healthy People scheme helped 51 households in Hartlepool during the last winter to improve their housing and heating conditions.

There was a £20m pot available to help local authority’s reduce the number of deaths and illnesses caused by cold weather and cold housing.

In England over the 2010-11 winter, there were 23,700 more deaths than over the rest of the year, and the rate of excess winter deaths in England is twice the rate of many Northern European countries, including Finland.

On the back of that, Hartlepool Borough Council secured £50,000 of Warm Homes, Healthy People funding and that money was put towards helping vulnerable households with inadequate heating, help people lower their fuel bills through a Collective Energy Switching Scheme and providing warm comfort packs to households.

The scheme was aimed at people aged over 65, people with long-term illnesses or disabled, families with young children and those in fuel poverty.

The average grant provided to those households was £2,236 and the type of repairs included replacing windows and doors, removing damp and mould, replacing heating systems, boiler repairs and replacing or repairing radiators.

Councillors sitting on the adult services committee also discussed the Stay Safe and Warm campaign, which is aimed at helping vulnerable people combat fuel poverty.

It is run locally by Cleveland Fire Brigade and provides a 24-hour, seven day a week service, free of charge to people struggling to keep warm in their homes.

Figures show between October last year and February this year, there were 82 referrals to Stay Safe and Warm and there has been 117 electric heaters, seven electric blankets and 25 thermal blankets provided to residents.

Putting Hartlepool First group leader, Alison Lilley, said it was good that dozens of residents had benefitted but said she was concerned that not enough people knew about the help on offer.

Labour councillor Carl Richardson, chairman of the committee, said: “A lot of people still don’t know about the work that the fire authority does and the communication needs to be addressed.”

Jill Harrison, the council’s assistant director of adult social care, said: “While we may not be getting the message out to everybody, we do have a high number of referrals.”

Concerns were also raised at the meeting that older residents may be too proud to ask for help in terms of heating their homes.

Meanwhile, Putting Hartlepool First councillor Geoff Lilley said private developers should be doing more to make homes energy efficient, adding: “They are not as energy efficient as they should be.”