Fuel payment appeal back by stars ahead of threat from cold

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SIR Michael Parkinson is among a host of celebrities backing a new campaign asking better-off pensioners across Yorkshire and the UK to donate their annual winter fuel payments to charities that support those struggling to pay their soaring fuel bills.

Latest figures from the Yorkshire Public Health Observatory show that 2,268 more people aged over 65 died in Yorkshire last winter than in any other season of the year, with about two-thirds of these excess winter deaths a result of circulatory or respiratory diseases, which are exacerbated by cold weather conditions.

Nationally, about a third of pensioners are now living in fuel poverty, equating to almost 300,000 elderly people in Yorkshire alone.

The new Surviving Winter appeal, launched by the Community Foundation network of charities, wants those pensioners who can afford it to donate this year’s annual winter fuel payment to people who need it more.

Winter fuel payments were introduced by the previous Labour government for all pensioners, irrespective of personal wealth.

This year, pensioners aged over 80 will receive £300, while those under 80 will receive £200 after the Government chose not to continue with a temporary increase in payments.

Pauline Grice, chief executive of South Yorkshire Community Foundation, said: “Surviving Winter aims to encourage those who can afford to, to support those in need for whom the winter fuel payment is not nearly enough.

“It is vitally important to provide a channel for those who want to help the most vulnerable members of our community to get through the winter with dignity.

“We hope others will see what is being done and also wish to lend their support.”

Other celebrity figures supporting the campaign include radio presenter Sir Terry Wogan and former Conservative MP Anne Widdecombe.

Sir Michael said: “I fully support the appeal. If you are in a position to do so, please help by donating all or part of your fuel payment to this very worthwhile cause.”

The appeal also has the backing of Saga, whose director-general Dr Ros Altmann said: “With rising fuel costs and the Government’s decision to cut winter fuel payments this year, vulnerable older people are suffering a double whammy, so Saga is fully behind this new ‘fuel-anthropic’ venture.”

Anyone wishing to make a donation should visit www.localgiving.com/winter.