VULNERABLE people in East Sussex are being urged to stay warm and well as the winter weather begins to take hold.
Every year, around 385 more people in the county die in the winter period compared to the rest of the year, with nearly a third of these deaths believed to occur because of cold temperatures in the home.
Meanwhile, nearly 21,000 households in East Sussex live in fuel poverty, where fuel bills cost more than average and paying them leaves the household below the official poverty line.
East Sussex County Council is promoting its winter home check service, which is available free to people on low incomes in certain groups more affected by the cold, including older people, families with young children, disabled people and people with long-term health conditions.
The council is working with East Sussex-based energy efficiency firm Osborne Energy to deliver the scheme, which offers a full assessment of the home and how to keep it warm.
People can benefit from small preventative works such as improvements to insulation or boiler repairs, emergency temporary heating and advice on getting help with the cost of heating home.
Meanwhile, the council is also calling on residents to check on vulnerable relatives, neighbours and friends regularly over the winter period to ensure they’re not being affected by the cold.
Cynthia Lyons, East Sussex acting Director of Public Health, said: “We’ve enjoyed a relatively mild autumn so far, but as the temperatures fall, it’s important people are aware of the effect the cold can have on vulnerable groups.
“Living in a cold home can make underlying health issues such as breathing problems, risk of stroke or heart conditions much worse, or even fatal, and can impact on mental health and increase the risk of trips and falls.
“Services like our winter home checks can help, but as residents we can all play our part by checking on vulnerable people in our community and making sure their home is warm enough.”
Vulnerable people can help beat the cold by following some simple tips, such as keeping the home heated to at least 18C (65F), layering clothes, keeping active indoors when possible, having hot meals and drinks, and making sure they claim any financial help that may be available to help heat the home.
People can also sign up to the coldAlert scheme, a community messaging service that warns people about cold weather events before they happen, allowing people to ensure homes are warm and people have sufficient supplies of food and medicine.
Anyone can sign up to the alerts online at www.coldalert.info or by calling 01273 484337.
More information about the winter home check service is available by calling 0800 0851674, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.eastsussex.gov.uk/keepwarm