HUNDREDS of older people at risk from freezing temperatures this winter could once again be helped to cope with the cold, thanks to an annual appeal from the Wiltshire Community Foundation.

WCF’s Surviving Winter appeal will give extra cash to the most vulnerable people in communities across Swindon and Wiltshire

Parts of Swindon, west Wiltshire, villages near Devizes and around the Salisbury Plain are seen as the most vulnerable in a county that considers itself well off.

Inevitably the people who fall into fuel poverty are the elderly, low income families with small children and those suffering from physical or mental disability.

Last year the charity helped 257 households – but it knows this year it will be faced with an even greater number of applications and needs more money to be able to help them.

WCF head of development Fiona Oliver said: “The majority of people who suffer premature winter-related death are aged over 65, and 75 per cent of these deaths are due to the impact that cold has on respiratory and circulatory conditions.

“All across Swindon and Wiltshire more than 30,000 people are living in fuel poverty. They spend ten per cent of their annual income on heating alone and have to make the harsh choice between eating and heating.

“That is a shameful statistic in 2017 and things are getting worse.”

The charity is asking anyone well off enough not to need their government Winter Fuel Payment to donate it to the appeal. Last year this made a real difference to so many people and we are very grateful to everyone who donated but we know there are many, many more out there we could be helping,” said Mrs Oliver.

Rising fuel prices have prompted the WCF to increase its grants this year from £200 to £300 per person. “We felt we needed to give people a little more to help see them through the colder months,” said Mrs Oliver.

Statistics suggest 300 older people in Wiltshire will die from illnesses related to the cold this year. Older people’s bodies are less efficient at keeping in heat, which means they have to turn their heating up to stay warm, but many cannot afford to do so.

The South West has the UK’s highest rate of fuel poverty – those who cannot afford to spend the average amount needed to heat their homes. Across the region the National Office of Statistics says 11.4 per cent of homes live in fuel poverty. But the same statistics say that there are pockets of Wiltshire where up to 36 per cent of households fall into that bracket.

To donate to the appeal, go to and click the Surviving Wiltshire link, send a cheque to Wiltshire Community Foundation, Sandcliffe House, 21 Northgate Street, Devizes SN101JT or call 01380 729284.