Winter deaths ‘highest since 1999’


Official figures for England and Wales show an increase in the number of winter deaths, an estimated 43,190 excess winter deaths occurred in 2014/15 – the highest number since 1999/00.[1]

The data released by ONS shows that most of the deaths involved people over 75. There were an estimated 36,300 excess winter deaths in this age group, compared with 7,700 in people aged under 75.

Cold, damp and poorly insulated housing are important factors in excess winter mortality, and in less severe cases they can lead to worsening health, risk of injury and social isolation.

Home improvement agencies – local, trusted providers who provide a range of services to help older and vulnerable people stay independent at home – can provide access to tailored services that address common barriers to tackling cold homes. Small measures such as heating and insulation repairs or gas safety works can sometimes make a huge impact to an individual’s health and wellbeing.

Earlier this year NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, released a new guidance on how to reduce deaths and illnesses caused by cold homes ( NICE outlined the vital role that home improvement agencies can play in in tackling excess winter deaths by creating a single-point-of-contact referral system so that staff in contact with vulnerable people have a quick and easy way to get help from national and local service providers.

Our charitable arm Foundations Independent Living Trust can also provide access to tailored solutions for people living in cold homes. FILT is already working at a national level with energy providers and energy charities, distributing small grants to HIAs that help home owners on low incomes or with health problems cover heating repairs and insulation.

Andrew Chaplin, Chief Executive at FILT said: ‘The figures released today by ONS only emphasise the amount of work that still needs to be done in order to tackle cold homes and their effect on the health and wellbeing of older and vulnerable people. FILT will continue to work with partners to source much-needed funding streams so that we reach more people in need.’

Paul Smith, Director at Foundations said: ‘Home Improvement Agencies are at the forefront of prevention offering a wide range of services that help people stay warm and well in their homes. Energy efficiency measures such as drought-proofing or boiler repairs can often enhance people’s wellbeing and prevent cold-related ill health.’


Research reveals impact of adapted homes on independent living

An investigation by Foundations has revealed the impact that government support for home adaptations can have on supporting independent living and delaying a move into residential care.

It shows that those who have had adaptations and later move into care do so some four years later than those who have not had adaptations carried out via Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).

DFG – the main source of government financial support for adaptations – not only helps people to stay in their own homes for longer, it can also generate substantial financial savings. The average DFG costs less than £7,000 compared with a residential care place costing around £29,000 a year.

Foundations – the national body for more than 200 not-for-profit home improvement and handyperson services throughout England  – has found that local authorities are starting to recognise the impact that DFG makes on their wider care costs.

This comes at the time when the absorption of DFG into the pooled NHS Better Care Fund, managed jointly by social services and NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, could further show the huge social and economic benefits that home adaptations like a ramp, stairlift or level access shower can bring.

Some £220m of DFG funding has been paid into the Fund for 2015-16 and government guidance indicates adaptations should be considered in future spending plans. The research highlights the benefit of DFG-type work for increasingly pressured NHS and council budgets.

Foundations submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to all local authorities in England with social care responsibilities. The request asked councils to look at the care needs of people depending on whether they had previously applied for a DFG to pay for major adaptations.

For people who have had to move into residential care, those who had previously received a DFG on average moved just before their 80th birthday and stayed there for two years. Those who hadn’t applied for a DFG moved when they were 76 and stayed in residential care for another six years.

The investigation also showed that people who need care at home require fewer hours of home help following adaptations – saving around £1,300 per year on average.

The findings come at a significant anniversary – it is 25 years since DFG was introduced to offer financial support for home adaptations. Its launch marked a breakthrough for all those working to promote independent living.

Paul Smith, Director of Foundations, said: “It makes sense that adapting your home means that you can live there independently for longer, but this research indicates that modifications such as stairlifts, level access showers and ramps really do help to delay people moving into care homes – by four years.

“We have an ageing population and this brings growing financial pressure on both the public purse and the finances of individuals. That’s why enabling people to live in their own homes has never been more important – home adaptations via DFG offer a cost-effective and empowering solution.”

The research highlighted how many councils can now link adaptations to social care spend despite most using different recording systems that could not be readily linked in the past.

With DFG funding now part of the Better Care Fund, this joining up of data will help commissioners look for evidence of impact to back up increasingly tough spending decisions.

Paul Smith added: “It’s a requirement of the Better Care Fund for the NHS and social care to link their information system using the NHS Number. I would like to see this extended to the IT systems used to manage DFG applications and other housing interventions so that all local authorities can track the benefits and also start to target people who may be at premature risk of moving into residential care.”

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Half of low income working households struggling to afford to heat their homes

New research by the national charity Turn2us has found that one in two low income households are struggling to afford their energy costs, despite being in work. Amongst the hardest hit are people with disabilities, with over two in three (67%) reporting their struggles, and families, with almost two-thirds of working parents (65%) unable to meet these costs.

Worryingly, of those households who are struggling with energy costs, nearly half (48%) have done so for more than a year. The knock-on effect is severe, with a third (33%) forced to skip meals and over a fifth (21%) experiencing stress and other mental health problems. Furthermore, nearly two-fifths (39%) are struggling with other essential bills, with Council Tax topping the list of payments they’re behind on (30%).

As the weather turns colder, the research also uncovers how low income workers will cope with these costs through the winter. Of those households worried about their energy costs, a huge 71% feel they will have to cut back on or not use their heating, whilst over two-fifths (44%) said they would resort to cutting back on food. Nearly two in five (37%) anticipate that their energy bills will cause further stress and worry in the coming months.

There are 2.3 million households living in fuel poverty in England alone*, and it is estimated that nearly half of these are in work.** As debate continues around proposed cuts to the tax credits system, there is growing concern that low income working households’ finances could be even harder hit from next year.

Turn2us’ research also suggests a lack of awareness of the help that could be available to low income working households, or potential reluctance to access it. Of those who are struggling to pay their energy costs, only 12% have told their energy supplier about their situation, and only 5% have turned to an advice organisation for help. Three-quarters have not checked their eligibility for welfare benefits in the last twelve months, whilst a huge 83% are unaware that some energy suppliers have charitable trusts set up to help certain customers.

This winter, Turn2us is running its No Cold Homes campaign specifically to help more people who are unable to afford to heat their homes. The charity is encouraging anyone in financial hardship to use its free online service to see if they are eligible for welfare benefits, charitable grants and other support – additional income which could help them manage their energy costs over the colder months.
Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us said: “Our research paints a startling picture, revealing the extent to which households are struggling to heat their homes, even though they’re in work. It is clear that more needs to be done to help raise awareness of the financial support and other help available to people on low incomes to help them manage their energy costs.

We know that this is an issue that affects a wide range of people, and alongside working households, many others will suffer this winter. We believe that no one should have to live in a cold home. Through our campaign, we urge anyone struggling to check what support could be available.”

For more information, please visit

All figures, unless otherwise stated are from a survey conducted with Research Now in September 2015. Total sample size was 2,001 adults with annual household incomes of £30,000 and less before tax and deductions
*Source: Department of Energy and Climate Change 2015
**Source: Policy Exchange 2015
For more information on The Trussell Trust figures please contact: Head of Media, Molly Hodson or Press Officer – 020 3137

Yorkshire Housing launch free handyperson service for Rotherham residents

Yorkshire Housing’s award-winning Home Improvement Agency (HIA) has launched a new free handyperson service to help older residents in Rotherham continue to live at home independently, safely and comfortably.

The new contract with Rotherham Borough Council will mean that older persons,  people with disabilities, life long limiting illness or those who are vulnerable, for example if they have been a victim of crime, will be entitled to an hour of free labour from the handyperson service.

To mark the launch new contract and the free service Rotherham Council’s Advisory Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health Cllr David Roche visited HIA offices.

The handyperson service carries out small repairs and fits minor adaptations such as grab rails. The Home Improvement Agency also offers free energy efficiency and home safety advice, and support with funding applications for larger home adaptations.

Rotherham Council’s Advisory Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health Cllr David Roche said: “The handy person service can help with a wide variety of small jobs around the home; tasks which those in need would otherwise struggle to get done, and which can lead to frustration and stress.

“We are particularly pleased that we can offer each person an hour of this service for free, helping to ease a vulnerable person’s worries. We are very much looking forward to working with Yorkshire Housing in the coming year.” 

Senior home improvement agency manager Kate Haley said: “Our service is all about making sure people can live independently without home safety or security hazards getting in the way.

“We’re really pleased to be working in partnership with Rotherham Borough Council to offer an hour of free labour. We have a 99 per cent customer satisfaction rating and all our handy people are specially trained to support older and vulnerable people.

 “We find that making small changes can often have a big impact on people’s lives– for example fitting a couple of grab rails and securing some loose carpet can make a real difference.”

Yorkshire Housing’s Home Improvement Agency’s handyperson service was recently commended at the HIA and HP Awards.

Further information about the Rotherham Home Improvement agency can be found at or by calling 0114 256 4270.

The HIA also offers service in Barnsley and Sheffield and in North Yorkshire.


NHS Stay Well This Winter campaign takes to the road

The Stay Well This Winter campaign goes on the road today as it drives home vital messages to the public.

The campaign is aimed at helping people prepare against the onset of winter and to raise awareness among those in key risk groups – such as the frail and elderly and those with long term conditions and respiratory illnesses.

Five teams will be highlighting the campaign at shopping centres throughout the country over the course of the next five weeks and telling people how they can best ward off common cold weather-related illnesses.

A joint NHS England and Public Health England initiative, Stay Well This Winter was officially launched last month and is supported by a national TV, Press and digital campaign.

The roadshows kick off today and will appear for two days at Wallsend in Newcastle, Salford in Manchester, Hinkley in Leicestershire, Bishops Stortford and Norwich. Over the course of the next five weeks each show will move around the regions visiting around 67 sites nationwide in total.

The Stay Well This Winter campaign began last month with a national flu vaccination programme for children. This year the programme is being extended to children in school years 1 and 2, and aims to help three million children between the ages of 2 and 6. For the first time, the youngest primary school children in 17,000 schools will be eligible to receive the free nasal spray vaccine, making this the largest school-based vaccination programme ever in England.

At the roadshow events, expert advice and support will be provided from the roadshow nurse and staff. In addition, leaflets and posters will inform the public about some of the key actions which will help them stay well this winter including:

  • Making sure you get the flu jab if eligible
  • Keeping yourself warm – heat your home to least 18 degrees C (or 65F) if you can
  • If you start to feel unwell, even if it’s just a cough or a cold, then get help from your pharmacist quickly before it gets more serious
  • Making sure you get your prescription medicines before pharmacies close on Christmas Eve
  • Always taking prescribed medicines as directed

Keith Willett, National Director for Acute Care for NHS England said: “Through the Stay Well This Winter roadshows, we are making sure we give people the information they need to help them to look after themselves and also to know where to go for urgent advice – whether it’s pharmacies, NHS Choices, NHS111 or A&E.”

Professor Paul Cosford, Director for Health Protection and Medical Director at Public Health England added: “The Stay Well This Winter roadshow is a great opportunity for people to familiarise themselves with the steps they can take to protect themselves, their families and their neighbours over the colder months. The roadshow events will offer advice and information about the precautions people can take against winter and a nurse will be available to answer any more specific questions that people may have. We’d urge people from the local community to attend to find out more.”

  • The Stay Well This Winter roadshow will be visiting destinations across England for five weeks from Monday 2 November until the 5 December 2015.
  • For further information about how you and your family can stay well this winter, please visit