Elderly faced with heat or eat choice

NRHN 15-10-12 BE 12 Amber valley cvs befriending service for the elderly.Edward Bartle and Ray Kelsall.
NRHN 15-10-12 BE 12 Amber valley cvs befriending service for the elderly.Edward Bartle and Ray Kelsall.

More and more elderly folk will be forced to choose between heating their home and eating this year according to the boss of Amber Valley’s voluntary service.

Shocking figures by Public Health England show there were 107 ‘excess winter deaths’ in the borough between 2012 and 2013 - significantly worse than the national average.

With four of the big six energy companies due to raise the cost of bills, and icy weather predicted in January - Ripley based Amber Valley Community Voluntary Services (CVS) says the elderly will be forced to make tough choices to save costs.

The organisation offers befriending services and home help to hundreds of older people across the borough.

Its chief executive Lynn Alison said: “In terms of older people, everybody is aware that they are of an era of living within their budget.

“ At the end of the day they feel they’ve got to cut back on something - and there isn’t much else to cut back on.”

Energy firms Eon and NPower are raising their prices in 2014 despite a fall in the wholesale cost of electricity.

Mrs Alison believes it could lead to more deaths in the elderly and the rising costs will put extra strain on the voluntary sector.

Amber Valley CVS runs a ‘help at home’ service which sees volunteers make regular checks on elderly folk to make sure they are warm and are eating properly.

But she says the organisation is likely to be hit by a ‘double whammy’ as the grant money it receives from the Labour county council could be cut as it prepares to cope with a third reduction in its own budget. It comes after the Conservative led borough council withdrew £12,300 of funding to the CVS under its austerity measures in April 2013.

Mrs Alison said: “We are all aware that the Government is cutting back quite harshly and expecting Derbyshire County Council and the borough council to do the same.

“But we have been doing a lot more work - almost on their behalf - this year.”

I say it’s a double whammy because the cuts are happening in the public arena, but there’s this expectation that the voluntary sector will be there to fill the gap.

“Only our budget is likely to get cut also.”

She added: “We are waiting with baited breath.”

But she added that the voluntary sector continues to be ‘enterprising’ and has encouraged folk to donate to Derbyshire Community Foundation‘s Surviving Winter Appeal.

The appeal is for pensioners who feel able to donate their Winter Fuel Payment, to gift it to those in need.

The Foundation‘s Patron, the Duke of Devonshire, is a supporter of the appeal and said: “It is distressing to think that in today‘s society it is possible for older people in our communities to be severely affected and even die due to not being able to keep warm.

“Passing on my own winter fuel allowance is a simple but incredibly effective way to help those who are at risk.”

To volunteer for Amber Valley CVS contact Elaine Broadhurst on 01773 512076.

To give to the Surviving Winter Appeal, head to www.derbyshirecommunityfoundation.co.uk.