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Social Justice

This charity is offering grants to help elderly people with the cost of living this winter

Retiree George says the grant from charity Friends of the Elderly last year made “an unbelievable difference”

Elderly people can now claim grants from a charity to help pay for essentials this winter as the cold weather bites and the cost of living soars.

Almost a fifth of pensioners are living in poverty, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). That’s about 2.1 million people. 

Older people are also more sensitive to the cold – they lose body heat faster and are at a higher risk of hypothermia. Left untreated, that can lead to heart failure and eventually to death.

Now charity Friends of the Elderly has launched its Winter Warmth Appeal, focusing on helping older people through the cold and dark winter months. 

Any money raised will fund the charity’s £400 grant service which pays for essentials that older people living in poverty otherwise cannot afford.

The grants are provided to older people over state pension age in England or Wales who have a low income and savings of less than £4,000. 

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The cash can help with home essentials such as white goods and furniture, small repairs, digital connections and can also give financial support with unexpected bills. 

A professional must make a grant application on an older person’s behalf, as the charity does not accept applications from members of the public. This can include housing officers, social workers, councillors, charities Age UK, Citizens Advice, religious centres and health professionals. 

Friends of the Elderly says the grants can be vital for the elderly, and have already helped people like George, a retiree who lives with his wife in a small cottage. He reached crisis point last winter and had to seek help – the couple often struggle to pay for the essentials and rarely eat three meals a day.

Over the last few years, all of George’s life-savings have been spent on house repairs and they couldn’t afford to fix a leaking tap. Their boiler broke and they had no oil. 

“December was hell,” George says. “It was bitterly cold in the house with no heating or hot water. We would sit wrapped up in our coats with blankets round us. At seven o’clock, we would go to bed and lay coats over the top of the duvet to keep us from shivering. It was grinding us down.”

George’s health suffered and he lost sleep from stress and anxiety. He applied for jobs but was unsuccessful so he started selling their belongings at boot fairs. “There was no other way out. I want to be free of this worry – your last years in life should not be miserable,” he says.

With the £400 grant, he was able to fix his boiler and buy oil – and he will be warm this winter. “It really has made an unbelievable difference,” George adds. “It is wonderful. It was a relief. We are warm, something we’ve not known for a long time. We are so grateful.”

In 2019, Age UK found that nearly one million older people were just one unexpected £200 bill away from “financial disaster”. This was before the pandemic and cost of living crisis hit the country and many more people were plunged into poverty. 

Friends of the Elderly is urgently calling for donations so they can keep supplying grants this winter. Every penny is match-funded by the Edward Gostling Foundation and goes towards “making sure older people do not feel cold or forgotten this winter”.

Mark Wilson, Friends of the Elderly’s chief operating officer, said: “We receive applications for grants to support older people who have nowhere else to turn. 

“The requests we receive are not for elaborate items, they are to help with energy costs, pay for essentials such as a new washing machine and in some cases to pay for funeral costs for a loved one. 

“We know how difficult times are for everyone at the moment, so we really appreciate anything people are able to give. Any donation to our Winter Appeal will go directly to helping older people in need.”

George adds: “My wife and I have always chatted about what we’d do if we won the lottery. We both agree that we would want to help people out in similar situations to us. Quietly and anonymously help them out, so they don’t have to go through what we have.”

Find out more about where to get help in the cost of living crisis here. 

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