Stay Well This Winter

WITH the cold winter nights now drawing in, residents are being encouraged to take a number of steps to stay well over the winter period.

Winter Watch, the Council’s annual scheme to provide support and information over the colder months is now underway. The scheme focuses on supporting the most at-risk groups, including those with disabilities, older people, low-income families, and those with serious illnesses.

Winter Watch offers bespoke energy advice and guidance to help residents reduce how much they spend on their heating bills and suggests practical ways of staying warmer for longer. In times of crisis, the scheme can also provide heating equipment and signpost residents to energy funds to support them through financial hardship.

The Winter Watch scheme is open all year round to help and advise people, with the majority of the team’s visits during the winter months from October to March. For more information about Winter Watch and how they can help call 0118 937 3747, or visit

There is also a reminder for the most vulnerable groups to ensure that they have received their free flu vaccine. This is available to those with long-term underlying medical conditions, older people (over 65), carers of elderly and disabled people, and pregnant women – the groups most likely to suffer from serious complications as a result of the flu. The free vaccine is available at most GP surgeries in the area, and in most local pharmacies.

Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Lead Member for Health, said:

“I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to continue our import Winter Watch programme despite big and ongoing government cuts to our budget. 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.

“If anyone feels they are struggling to keep warm or indeed know any neighbours who they think may need help, then please contact the Council to find out more about how the Winter Watch scheme can help.

“Additionally, if you are eligible for the flu vaccination, don’t put it off – get it now – it’s free because you need it! Getting vaccinated now is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from this unpleasant and potentially deadly illness.”

This year the ‘adjuvanted’ trivalent vaccine is being offered to those aged 65 and over as it has shown to be more effective at offering protection against flu in this group. The ‘quadrivalent’ vaccine, which offers protection against four strains of flu, is being provided to those aged 18-64 with underlying health conditions. In addition, a simple nasal spray vaccine is being offered to an extra school year (year 5), meaning all children aged 2-9 can be vaccinated.

NHS Help Us to Help You campaign is also recommending a number of other steps to take to ward off the most common illnesses this winter including:

–          Keep yourself warm – if you can, heat your home to at least 18 degrees C (65F)

–          Speak to your pharmacist as soon as you start to feel unwell, even if it is just a cold or cough

–          Ensure you have medicine in the home to deal with common ailments like coughs, colds and upset stomachs.

For useful information on staying well, visit or

The NHS non-emergency number 111 is available to contact for out of hours advice. It’s fast, easy and free to speak to a highly trained adviser, supported by healthcare professionals. They will ask a series of questions to assess symptoms and immediately direct people to the best medical care.


Notes to Editors

Flu vaccinations 2018

The groups being offered the free flu vaccine are:

  • pregnant women;
  • those aged 65 or over;
  • carers of elderly or disabled people;
  • people who have an underlying health condition such as diabetes, chronic respiratory, heart or kidney diseases, neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, weakened immune systems, liver disease and those recovering from strokes.

Children aged from 2 up to those children in year 5 are eligible too and can be vaccinated via a painless nasal flu vaccine.  Parents of children aged 2 and 3 are reminded that these are available at their general practice and this can usually be done by seeing the practice nurse. For children in reception (aged 4) up to those in year 5, these will be available through school. More information on the local school schedule can be found here:

Winter Watch

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.

Winter Watch Case Studies

Case study 1

Elderly resident gets a new boiler in time for Christmas

Winter Watch received a referral to help an elderly resident living in isolation with a broken boiler and with very little savings. The resident was extremely concerned about the prospect of having to survive winter in freezing conditions.

The Winter Watch officer acted quickly and provided two brand new oil filled radiators and positioned them in areas of the property that would deliver maximum heat flow. A new duvet was also provided that would help keep the resident warm in the evenings.

These actions would help the resident stay comfortable, safe and warm but wouldn’t be the answer for the long term future. A referral was also made to the Private Sector Renewals team who could arrange a home improvement grant to help with the boiler replacement and other areas of the property that required attention.

Within a few weeks the resident had a brand new gas central heating system installed and new double glazed windows that will ensure a healthier temperature throughout the property.

Case study 2

Help for a young mother

A young mother who had never lived independently before approached the Winter Watch team seeking assistance and support on how to manage her energy usage throughout winter.

Winter Watch carried out a bespoke session and explained how appliances worked and their costings per hour. We also contacted her energy supplier and together set her up as a new household. We applied for the Warm Homes discount, a one off £140 payment to help vulnerable families stay warm through the winter. We also left our Winter Watch guides that explained what to do in times of crisis and actions to take to get emergency funding.

After a few weeks the Winter Watch team contacted the young resident to see how she was getting on in her new home. She was extremely happy and full of confidence, budgeting healthily and even sharing energy tips with her friends and neighbours.

Victoria Nickless

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