Comment: Do what you can to help vulnerable stay warm and well

Consider what you can do to help keep family, friends and neighbours well and warm over winter, says Leah Swain.
Consider what you can do to help keep family, friends and neighbours well and warm over winter, says Leah Swain.
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BOXING DAY for me means a bracing walk with the children and dogs. A chance to walk off the excesses of Christmas Day and get some much needed fresh air. With such unseasonably, mild weather in most parts of Yorkshire we are unlikely to have any chance of a festive snowball fight.

In fact, our village daffodils are already in bloom and I worry the hedgehog hibernating in our garden will think its time to wake up for Spring. But I don’t think this mild spell will last – local farmers and others in the know are predicting a tough winter ahead. We still have plenty of time for snow.

Boxing Day also means curling up on the sofa in front of a roaring fire contemplating the year ahead. One of my new year resolutions will be to do more to help others should we have a very hard winter.

In North Yorkshire alone there are 26,000 homes living in fuel poverty and over 11,000 children living in poverty. The sad truth is that this winter many people will face the stark decision of whether to buy food or fuel.

Cold weather also impacts in other ways, a drop in temperature leads to increased emergency hospital admissions for older people or those living with long term health conditions.

Others find themselves trapped in their homes by ice and snow, too worried about falling to venture out, too worried about bothering neighbours to ask for help. Cold homes harm the very young and the old.

Sometimes you are not even aware a cold home is making you ill. I remember having a constant cough the winter I moved into our current home. The following year we got round to putting internal solid wall insulation into our bedroom and finally got rid of the black mould that I had been washing off the walls all year. It also got rid of my cough – turned out the mould spores were making me ill because I slept in a cold bedroom with condensation encouraging the mould. For me it was an inconvenience, for someone with a long term health condition it could have meant a spell in hospital.

Have a think about your family, friends and neighbours: who might need a little help this winter? You could check if a neighbour will need a prescription picked up or their dog walked so they can stay warm at home. You could become a local snow angel and volunteer to clear paths in your community.

You might feel in a position to donate your winter fuel payment to the Two Ridings Community Foundation Hardship Fund to help others in need this winter. Maybe encourage an older relative go and get their flu injection or just check they are eating regular hot meals and staying warm.

Start a community winter weather scheme to check everyone is well and safe in bad weather. Or knit a draught excluder and donate it to Rural Action Yorkshire’s Warm and Well campaign? We have plenty of other ideas and tips on our website.

Let’s all do one thing to help everyone Stay Warm and Well this winter.

Leah Swain is the chief officer of charity, Rural Action Yorkshire. For more details about RAY’s Stay Warm and Well campaign this winter, visit the charity’s website at