Winter Watch Will Help Residents Keep Warm

A SCHEME that helps vulnerable Reading residents keep warm through the winter is under way again as the weather starts to get colder.

This year’s Winter Watch will run from November 2016 to the end of March 2017.

Since it was launched in Reading five years ago, Winter Watch has provided practical support and information to more than 2,350 vulnerable households in the borough.

Winter Watch aims to help at-risk groups including pensioners, people with serious illnesses and disabilities, people on a range of benefits including families with young children. Support on offer includes:

  • Home energy checks
  • Draught-proofing
  • Access to grants for insulation
  • Provision of emergency heaters and bedding
  • Emergency energy payments

Just over 10 per cent of homes in Reading have at least one member affected by a long term illness or disability and an estimated 6,695 households in Reading – almost 11 per cent – are considered ‘fuel poor’ and will struggle to afford the cost of heating their homes.

People can find out more about the help available from Winter Watch by calling 0118 937 3747 or by email to winterwatch@reading.gov.uk or visit www.reading.gov.uk/winterwatch

Under last year’s scheme, council officers visited 175 residents and offered a range of advice and practical assistance to help them reduce their energy bills.

Residents received emergency financial assistance to help them make their homes warmer. In addition eligible residents were supported by the Council to gain access to boiler upgrades or insulation measures through the Government’s ECO funding scheme. Under this scheme, people may qualify for a free energy-efficient gas boiler, free loft insulation and free cavity wall insulation, if they receive certain state benefits and live in a private property.

Last year’s Winter Watch also helped residents with a wide range of heating issues, including helping:

  • An 88 Year old man with no fixed heating, who spent most of the day in bed or under a blanket in his chair. Winter Watch provided 2 heaters and a small contribution to his electric bill to enable his flat to be heated properly.
  • A single mum with a young child, who was starting a new part-time job but was in between benefits and pay from her new job so had got into debt on her gas card meter. Winter Watch arranged for the debt to paid off in instalments and put sufficient funds onto the card to allow the heating to be on until she got paid.
  •  A disabled 84 year-old man with breathing and walking difficulties and with a pre-payment meter that was in debt. Winter Watch arranged for the pre-payment meter to be removed and replaced with a quarterly meter so he did not have to struggle to walk to the shops to get his meter topped up.

A high proportion of these households used prepayment meters. With the best pre- payment meter deal people pay an average of £235 a year more than on the best direct debit deal. For advice on fuel bills and switching your providers we encourage Reading residents to contact Citizens Advice on 0118 952 3022.

Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Lead Member for Health, said:

“More people die in winter than the rest of the year due to the effects of the cold. Older people are at particular risk of health problems, as are children and people with disabilities or long term illnesses. I urge anyone in fuel poverty to contact Winter Watch to find out what help is available.”

Cllr Richard Davies, Lead Member for Housing, said:

“It is a sad fact that the most vulnerable people in our community are faced with choosing whether to heat their homes or to pay other bills. I therefore fully support anything we can do as a local Council to guard against the potentially disastrous effects of inadequate heating.

“I would urge anyone who feels they are struggling to keep warm or indeed any neighbours who think they know someone who may need help, to contact the Council and find out more about how the Winter Watch can help.”