SOMERSET Community Foundation (SCF) launched its annual Surviving Winter appeal on Monday (November 6) to raise vital funds for low income pensioners this winter.

The charity estimated 10,000 pensioners in Somerset were living in fuel poverty, nearly double the figure this time last year.

It knows from more than 10 years of experience of running the appeal that many of the poorest pensioners avoid putting their heating on or will cut back on food to save money.

With the high cost of energy and no plans for additional Government help with bills this year, SCF expects a huge demand for help.

SCF philanthropy director Laura Blake said: “We are gravely concerned about the number of older people who will be too frightened to put their heating on.

“Many of those we support have disabilities or long-term health conditions, and staying warm is crucial to keeping them safe and well as the winter hits.

“We know times are tough for so many people, but if you can afford to help, your donations will be an absolute lifeline for hundreds of older people in the county.”

About 800 older people in Somerset receive help from SCF’s Surviving Winter Appeal each year, with a cash grant of up to £500 to support their energy bills.

A Surviving Winter grant can also provide help for people to buy essential items to stay warm, make their homes more energy efficient, and access specialist support and social activities in their communities.

One pensioner, ‘Audrey’, who received a grant last year, said: “I do not know how I manage at the moment.

“Right now I am overdrawn and I am incredibly careful with what I spend, and with my heating.

“Even though it is getting colder, I still do not put it on.

“I am 72 and I really feel the cold in my little place.”

Surviving Winter encourages local people to make a personal gift, or donate their Winter Fuel Payment to help older people in need.

“It was so fantastic to get the Surviving Winter grant,” said ‘Audrey’. “I really needed that money and it came at just the right time.”

Anybody who would like to donate to Surviving Winter should visit the website here or call 01749 344949 Monday to Friday between 9 am and 5 pm.

A donation form is also available to download here, where information on which partner organisations deliver Surviving Winter grants can also be found.

The Surviving Winter appeal began in 2010 when a donor offered to give his Winter Fuel Payment to help local pensioners struggling with the cost of everyday essentials most people take for granted, such as heating, warm clothing, and food, and has since raised more than £1.2 million.