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Issue:- 6 March 2014

Charity provides a warm glow

HUNDREDS of vulnerable people in Liverpool were helped to keep warm and safe this winter thanks to a scheme which provides emergency heating.   Local charity Dying to Keep Warm, which has raised money from Liverpool churches and businesses, has partnered with theCity Council 's Healthy Homes team to provide a range of help for vulnerable patients who have a heating crisis, or who need help in reducing risks in their homes.  Health and social care professionals refer patients without heating or dangerous heating appliances for emergency heaters and cookers.   In addition, the Healthy Homes team has been provided with carbon monoxide detectors which Riverside's Home Improvement Agency will install free of charge to particular households the team identifies.  Dying to Keep Warm is run entirely by volunteers and provides all the emergency safety provisions free of charge.

It was set up by Afroza Ahmed a NHS Occupational Therapist whose elderly patients, suffering from dementia, often did not have any form of heating or behaved extremely dangerously by, for example, leaving the gas on.  Afroza contacted St Bridget and St Thomas Church who donated £5,000, St Hilda's School and Rapid who donated replacement cookers and Liverpool businesses such as James Rymer Solicitors and Waterstones who donated significant sums of money.  This paid for 130 emergency oil filled radiators, five replacement gas cookers with in-built gas cut off, 10 microwaves, and 100 carbon monoxide detectors to be provided to the Liverpool Healthy Homes team for distribution. 

The charity also funds a Gas Safe registered engineer to install lockable gas isolation valves to gas cookers and fires allowing only carers to control the gas supply and reducing the risks of accidental fires and gas explosions significantly.  

Afroza said:- "I was so disturbed when I heard of an 86 year old Liverpool World War II veteran found dead sitting in front of a broken gas fire with his coat and cap just after Christmas, I felt compelled to do more to protect older people from the cold and gas risks.  His carer had identified that his gas fire was broken earlier that day but there was no help available from services to keep him warm. I never want his death to be in vain.  With over 25,000 excess winter deaths for over 75's, I started Dying to Keep Warm to offer community workers a free emergency heating and gas safety service when they come across an elderly or disabled person at high risk. Protecting vulnerable people against the cold, gas leaks, carbon monoxide poisoning and fires is paramount to protecting their health and their safety. As a society we all need to help them more. I would like to offer my deepest thanks all our partners and sponsors for helping to save their lives"

Council lor Ann O'Byrne, Assistant Mayor and cabinet member for housing said:- "This initiative between Dying to Keep Warm and Healthy Homes is a fantastic practical example of the great work being done in Liverpool to help protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our vulnerable residents. Despite central government cuts to vital front line services, it shows how resilient Liverpool can be, demonstrating how those in our society who can afford it are supporting those who most need it.  The interventions offer fantastic value for money as the appliances are bought at cost - £30 for an emergency heater, for example. I would stress however, to maintain this service, the charity will require further funding and I would encourage any business or anyone who would like to donate, to contact them via their website."

Case studies:-

Peggy, aged 93, who lives alone and suffers from Alzheimer 's disease, was found trying to dry her clothes dangerously close to a halogen heater with a frayed wire. She had also been leaving her gas cooker on accidently and not aware of the gas building up.   She was provided with an oil filled radiator to replace the dangerous one, a lockable gas isolation switch on the cooker, and a simple microwave and microwave dishes. Peggy continues to live at home and warm up her own meals with the microwave.  The total cost of providing the heater and other equipment was £287.60 with it all provided free of charge to Peggy.

Wilson is 78 years old and suffers from dementia. He lives with his wife and decided to make a cup of tea for her when she left the room. He placed an electric kettle on the gas stove and set it on fire. He then tried to remove the burning kettle with oven gloves and nearly set himself on fire. He was with his three-year-old grandchild in the kitchen. The house was full of toxic smoke. His wife put the kettle out. Wilson also has a habit of putting his favourite metal teapot in the microwave causing sparks inside it.   Dying to Keep Warm provided a lockable gas isolation switch and a lockable microwave costing £190, allowing Wilson to continue living safely with his wife at home. They regularly mind their grandchildren and there has been no further incidents of fire or gas risks.

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