THE Wiltshire Community Foundation has launched its annual Surviving Winter campaign, asking those who can afford to live comfortably this winter to consider helping someone in the county who cannot.

Each year 300 people in the county suffer premature winter-related deaths because they cannot afford to heat their homes. Most of these are aged over 65 and 75 per cent of the deaths are due to the impact of cold on respiratory and circulatory conditions.

Stella Clack, 64, from Chippenham, receives a grant to help her with heating costs. The former primary school cook, who was so good in her role she toured the country giving speeches on how to give youngsters a healthy diet and even worked with Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith, began to suffer with her knees and back and was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. She had to give up work, and being unable to move around easily in the winter means she feels the cold far more.

She also suffers from asthma and a few years ago had pneumonia.

“It is very difficult to stay warm because I can’t move about that much,” she said. “I couldn’t really afford to heat every room in the house and I’d just lay on the sofa in the living room under a quilt to stay warm.

“But when you do that it just makes you feel more stiff when you get up, sometimes I had a job to walk. Being cold just make you feel low and there were a few times I was just so fed up with it I became quite depressed. I just didn’t feel like doing anything.”

Her daughter’s job at housing association GreenSquare led her to find out about the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter grant two years ago

Stella applied and was delighted to receive £200 in 2016/17 and £300 last year.

“It’s amazing, I am just so grateful for it. I can’t tell you how much of a difference it makes. I just put on an extra £20 a week to my payment and that allows me to keep the house warm. Not having to worry about the bill is a relief. Without it I’d still be huddled on the sofa under the quilt.”

“Getting the money is wonderful and I’m so grateful. I’d encourage everyone to donate to the campaign if they can afford to. You never know when you might need the help,” she said.

Ten per cent of Wiltshire households live in fuel poverty, spending more than ten per cent of their annual income on heating alone.

This year the problem is expected to be even greater. Weather experts are already predicting that the 2018/19 winter will be the coldest we have experienced in years and with energy prices being at their highest level ever it is expected that more people will find themselves at a financial breaking point.

Through their Surviving Winter programme, Wiltshire Community Foundation provides grants towards heating costs to vulnerable people across the county who otherwise would be unable to heat their homes. Working with local organisations such as Age UK Wiltshire, Aster, Warm and Safe Wiltshire and Citizens Advice they are able to identify those most in need of support.

Last year the Surviving Winter Appeal raised £77,000 and the Foundation was able to give out 265 grants, benefitting 403 individuals. This year they have set themselves the target of raising £90,000.

Anyone wanting to support the Surviving Winter campaign can make a donation by visiting the Wiltshire Community Foundation website or by calling 01380 729284.