THE Wiltshire Community Foundation is launching a £90,000 appeal to help keep hundreds of elderly people warm and save lives this winter.

The Surviving Winter campaign, which has been running since 2010, will this year be funding partners Age UK, Warm and Safe Wiltshire and both Swindon and Wiltshire Citizens Advice Bureaux so they can provide hot meals, energy bill vouchers, boiler repairs and servicing and essential energy-saving and benefits advice.

Last year the appeal helped 300 people through direct grants, but this year, the Community Foundation hopes to help at least 900.

NHS statistics show that that up to 400 people in Wiltshire and Swindon die each year simply because they cannot afford to heat their homes.

The majority of people who suffer premature winter-related death are over 65 and 75 per cent of these deaths are due to the impact the cold has on respiratory and circulatory conditions - including this year Covid-19.

Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said the foundation is asking people in receipt of a £200 government Winter Fuel Payment to donate it to the appeal if they don’t need it themselves.

She said: “This winter is going to be extremely hard for older people.

“Because of Covid and the lockdown older people will be forced to stay at home more, unable to visit family or friends to get a hot meal, warmth and some company.

"Many of the clubs and organisations that may also have helped them have had to temporarily close as well. Without this vital support we will hear of more people having to make the harrowing choice between eating well and heating their home.”

As well as providing energy grants and boiler service or repair, Age UK will offer free trials of its door-to-door hot meals service and also encourage people to take part in clubs and activities once they are up and running after lockdown by paying for taxis to take them there.

Warm and Safe Wiltshire, which works with Wiltshire Council, Swindon Borough Council and Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, will also distribute energy vouchers and arrange for boilers to be repaired or serviced.

It will also use its trained advisors to pass on tips on keeping homes warm and lowering bills through its free advice phone line.