In some parts of Sussex, a fifth of households are fuel poor.

The Ore Centre Seniors Project which Sussex Community Foundation funds to help keep people warm.
The Ore Centre Seniors Project which Sussex Community Foundation funds to help keep people warm.

With the autumn not too far away, any day now many of us will be thinking about when to put on the central heatin

It can cost over £1,000 a year to heat the average home and so, for many people in Sussex, a cold snap can mean making a terrible choice between heating and eating.

It is estimated that 8.3% of households in the south east live in fuel poverty, where they can’t afford to heat their home to the standard recommended to help maintain good health and wellbeing. In West Sussex, the figure is slightly less than the south east average (7.7%) but, in East Sussex, the number is slightly above average (9%). In Brighton &Hove, the figure is 12.3%. However, when you look at much smaller local areas, it becomes clear that there are parts of all three counties where the percentage of people struggling to heat their homes reaches a staggering 20% and over. It’s especially important for people in vulnerable groups to be prepared for cold weather. Living in a cold home can exacerbate underlying health issues such as breathing problems, heart conditions or risk of a stroke – and can even be fatal. People can stay safe in cold weather by keeping their home heated to at least 18C (64F), having hot meals and drinks regularly throughout the day, staying active and wearing lots of thin layers.

Sussex Community Foundation has ten years’ experience of funding groups tackling issues such as fuel poverty and worked with the council on our Surviving Winter campaign where kind individuals who don’t feel that they needed their annual winter fuel payment pass it to us so we can fund charities offering practical assistance to those in need. This year, we are working with East Sussex County Council by launching the council’s East Sussex Stay Well This Winter Fund, part of the East Sussex Energy Partnership’s wider programme of action to tackle fuel poverty.

The scheme will see £12,000 made available for East Sussex projects which raise awareness of services to tackle fuel poverty, offer practical assistance, advice and support or run activities to help people stay warm and well.

The fund will allow local groups and charities to play a greater role in supporting older and vulnerable people to stay warm at home. Projects which may benefit include those which raise awareness of services to tackle fuel poverty, such as the county council’s free Winter Home Check service and those which offer practical help such as reprogramming heating and hot water timers. Money may also be given to projects which provide activities, such as social clubs and lunch clubs, and those which offer advice and support for people on low incomes.

The deadline for applications for grants of up to £5,000 is Friday, October 7 and information for community groups on how to apply is available at www.sussexgiving.org.uk/staywell