A former police chief constable has become the first to back a North East campaign to help the elderly with fuel poverty this winter.
Crispian Strachan, who headed up Northumbria Police between 1998 and 2005, has donated his winter fuel payment to the Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter campaign.
The 64-year-old said because of his position he was lucky enough to be able to afford going without the allowance and wanted to see it go to help others in need in the community.
He is now urging others who can, to donate their winter fuel allowance for the campaign.
“I think others are in far more need of warmth and in far worse circumstances than I am, particularly with energy prices in the news at the moment,” he said.
“I can afford it and someone else needs it,” added Mr Strachan, who lives in Morpeth, Northumberland.
Throwing his weight behind the campaign, Mr Strachan is encouraging others who can to donate their money.
“I think this is the third year I have put my money in,” he said.
“I would encourage anyone else, if you can afford being warm think of those who can not,” added Mr Strachan.
The Journal is also backing the campaign, which was launched by the Community Foundation and is now in its third year.
The Foundation has launched the campaign as temperatures in the region plunge and older and vulnerable people struggle to keep warm.
The campaign is once again appealing to those who receive the winter fuel payment but do not need it and the wider public to donate and support people out of fuel poverty this winter.
Last year, with the help of the Journal, the Community Foundation raised over £20,000 to help groups that support older and vulnerable people through the winter.
Rob Williamson, Chief Executive of the Community Foundation said: “Older and vulnerable people really struggle with keeping warm through winter and it’s vital that they know exactly what they are entitled to and the best ways to keep warm through the winter months.
“We are appealing to those who receive the winter fuel payment but do not need it and the wider public to donate to our campaign so that we can support people in Tyne & wear and Northumberland out of fuel poverty.”
In the North East, Government figures reveal fuel poverty is above the average for England of 16.37% fuel poor homes. In Berwick-upon-Tweed 26.9% are fuel poor households, with 23.5% in Gateshead and 23.4% in Hexham and Sunderland Central classed as fuel poor.
The key drivers behind fuel poverty are said to be the energy efficiency of the property, the cost of energy and household income.
The Community Foundation campaign has also gained support from other charities and organisations also trying to help those battling fuel poverty.
Maria Wardrobe, Director of External Affairs, National Energy Action, said: “We’re currently in the midst of a cold-homes crisis.
“Two-point-four million households in England are estimated to be living in fuel poverty, 142,000 in the North East of England alone.
“Many people will – right now – be facing difficult choices about which household necessity they will do without this winter.
“NEA has recently launched a national campaign to highlight some of the Many Faces of Fuel Poverty – the men women and children, young and old, who are struggling to achieve that basic right to live in a warm, dry home.
“The fact that so many organisations are campaigning on this issue demonstrates the importance of this issue and that it is vital the Government takes action to end the misery of cold homes for good.”
Alma Caldwell, Chief Executive from Age UK North Tyneside, added: “This winter 24,000 older people may not survive the cold weather – that’s 200 deaths a day that could be prevented. With this in mind, Age UK North Tyneside wants to ensure older people are fully prepared for the winter months ahead.
“Winter can be a very distressing time for many older people, especially those who live alone and those who are housebound, so it’s vital we do all we can to help older people prepare for the colder weather.”
But Sean Fahey, secretary of the North East Pensioners’ Association warned that the Government needed to do more to ensure the number of deaths from cold did not increase on last year.
“Any help people in that situation can get we support,” he said. “But basically it used to be heat or eat, now it is probably die and if you do not have the money or family around you, it is hard.
“What we are seeing now is just the start of a real problem if we do not get to grips with it in the future.
“I will join with any campaign that will make a difference to this situation.”
If you would like to donate to the Surviving Winter campaign you can visit www.justgiving.com/SurvivingWinterCFTWN, call 0191 222 0945 to make a donation by card, or post cheques payable to Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland to Surviving Winter, Community Foundation. Freepost NEA 11784. Newcastle upon Tyne. NE1 1BR.