Wiltshire residents now have a single point of contact to provide support, help and guidance to people living in cold homes and those struggling to keep on top of bills. Funded by the British Gas Energy Trust, Wiltshire Council will work with the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Centre for Sustainable Energy, to build on the council’s existing Warm and Safe energy advice service which is run jointly with Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service. People are being encouraged to contact the service now to reduce household energy costs for the year ahead and get homes prepared for next winter.
There will be an improved referral system and even more people will be able to benefit from the service. People who are on low incomes, elderly, disabled and suffering in a cold home will get the support they need – quickly and efficiently. A number of health conditions can be exacerbated by living in cold, damp homes. These include asthma, hypertension and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The Warm and Safe Wiltshire advice service provides information and support to all residents across Wiltshire who are looking to make their homes warmer and more comfortable as well as providing advice on how people can reduce their energy bills, home fire safety advice and sign posting to other relevant services. Warm and Safe Wiltshire can search for funding for heating and insulation improvements as well as providing home visits to those who need advice and support the most. Maggie Rae, Wiltshire Council corporate director, said: “Winter can be a tough time for many but this enhanced joined-up service means that more people will get vital support to help keep them warm in their homes.” Keith Humphries, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for public health, said: “We are pleased to be part of this partnership helping provide vital support to those who need it most. We want people to feel comfortable, safe and warm in their own home and this partnership will help more people do that.” Phillip Morris, Senior Development Manager at the Centre for Sustainable Energy said: “It is great to be working so closely with the council and in particular the public health team on this project. The project is an excellent example of how well a number of different organisations can work together to provide support to those people who are struggling to heat their homes to a healthy level.”
Dr Tim Ballard, Vice Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “As GPs, we look at the physical, psychological, and social factors affecting a patient’s health before we make a diagnosis – and the conditions someone lives in can be key to their overall health and wellbeing.
“If people are living in cold homes, then it makes sense that they will be more susceptible to health problems associated with cold weather, for example respiratory problems such as COPD. It has been frustrating during my career, when my clinical opinion has been that a patient’s health might improve if they lived in a drier, warmer and potentially safer home, but the relevant support has been lacking.
“Pilot schemes have shown a link between initiatives that address fuel poverty and cold homes and a decrease in both GP appointments and hospital admissions, so I am delighted that the College is involved in this important advice and referral scheme in Wiltshire, where I practise.
“This Warm and Safe Wiltshire scheme will not only help the patients concerned, but it may well lead to a decrease in workload for GPs and our teams, who are currently facing intense resource and workforce pressures. We look forward to an evaluation of this pilot scheme in due course to assess the benefits and see if there is scope to roll this out further.”
For more information about the service and how they can benefit people are encouraged to visit www.warmandsafewiltshire.org.uk for all the information they need.