Winter is a cruel time for those living close to the edge – an increasingly larger section of our local communities.
Direct effects of winter weather include an increase in heart attacks, strokes, respiratory diseases, influenza, falls and injuries and hypothermia.
This is why people with underlying health problems, the elderly and frail, are at greater risk.
Circulatory system diseases such as heart attacks and strokes account for 40% of excess winter deaths. Around one third of excess winter deaths are due to respiratory illness.
This winter is set to be a particularly difficult one for many in our local commuunity.
2013 has seen dramatic rises in food poverty – with two new food banks opening in or on the fringe of Leeds NW. It’s also been a year of escalating energy bills.
As we’ve reported before, over 1 in 6 households in Leeds NW are now living in fuel poverty.
And many more are feeling the pinch of a squeeze on living standards.
So it’s good news that cold weather support for people in Leeds has been given a helping hand. Leeds City Council has teamed up with local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to fill a funding gap in winter warmth provision.
The Council’s Public Health team have made £200,000 available to deliver crucial services to make the cold months ahead less of a threat to those most at risk. The funding package will ensure that the Council is able to deliver a range of practical help and support to vulnerable people to help them stay warm and healthy in their homes this winter.
Last winter Leeds accessed £199,067 of funding from the Department of Health’s Warm Homes Healthy People Fund to provide similar services. The Department of Health have this year removed this funding and have instead told local authorities that they need to fund this area themselves, despite facing unprecedented budget pressures.
Leeds Council has responded as best it can. With winter now underway, the city has prioritised this work locally, identifying funding from the local Public Health budget, supplemented with additional money through Leeds CCGs.
The funding package will help existing winter warmth programmes provided by Care & Repair Leeds, Groundwork Leeds, Leeds Community Foundation and CAB, delivering emergency heating repairs, household energy efficiency measures and advice, and detailed advice on dealing with fuel bills and eligibility for any financial help.
Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Labour’s Executive Board Member for Health and Wellbeing, said
“Local services play a vital role in supporting people most in need to be safe and healthy in cold weather, from gritting roads to offering free or discounted boiler upgrades, loft and cavity wall insulation and external wall insulation.
“We know that the support the city put in place last year made a big difference to many people and it is really important that we continue to deliver these services. This job has been made much harder with the government cutting the Warm Homes Healthy People funding just before the cold weather hits. It has put us in a situation where at a time of unprecedented pressures on health and social care budgets we have had find funding to fill this service gap.
“However, thanks to working closely with our partners in the CCGs, we have been able to provide this vital package of services to keep vulnerable people safe in their homes this winter.”
In addition the Labour Council has found money for a huge £366,000 cash boost for Neighbourhood Networks, including £65,6500 for Supporting The Elderly People (STEP) based at West Park here in Leeds NW.
Leeds currently has 37 Neighbourhood Networks across the city which have long-term contracts with the council.
The networks provide services that support older people to stay living in their own homes for as long as possible.
They are supported by 1,862 local volunteers, and provide on-going support to 21,966 older people.
STEP (Supporting The Elderly People) helps the over 60’s in the West Park, Kirkstall, Far Headingley and Weetwood areas of Leeds 16
Hard-working Neighbourhood Networks across Leeds were invited to apply for the money by Leeds City Council’s Adult Social Care team.
The extra funding will be used to help the Neighbourhood Networks provide support and day opportunities for local older people and their carers.
It will also be used to expand projects to combat poverty, isolation and loneliness and help forge closer links with GP’s.
Councillor Adam Ogilvie, Leeds City Council’s executive member for adult social care, said:
“Making this extra money available to our Neighbourhood Networks shows just how much confidence we and our partners in health have in the vital services they provide to local elderly residents.
“Neighbourhood Networks are a genuine lifeline to the thousands of people across Leeds who regularly attend some of the activities they provide, receive support in their own home and are helped to access other community activities.
“This extra money will be a massive boost to the already excellent work done by the networks and will mean they can offer even better support to older people, their carers and local communities.”
So thanks to Leeds Labour Council for the help they are giving the vulnerable and elderly – including here in NW Leeds.
And remember – there are other local organisations working to help the elderly and vulnerable.
They would welcome any help you can give.
You can donate to the local foodbanks – visit Leeds North foodbank’s website http://leedsnorth.foodbank.org.uk/ for details, or contact Labour Town Councillor, Nigel Gill, firstname.lastname@example.org who is on the management committee of the Otley foodbank.
Britain Can Do Better – and Leeds Labour Council is showing how.