Guidance for staff and volunteers
Living in a cold home can be harmful to health. It can exacerbate a range of health conditions such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease, can impact on mental wellbeing and can increase the risk of trips and falls. Being too cold can even be fatal, with more people dying each year during the winter months than the summer months.
Over the five years between 2010/11 and 2014/15 there were an
average of 355 excess winter deaths each winter in East Sussex.
These effects of living in a cold home are predictable and mostly preventable. To find out what you can do to help prevent the harm to health of those you’re in contact with take a moment to read about how you can spot the signs.
You can also download our handy guidance for staff and volunteers or place an order printed copies to be delivered to you by the East Sussex health promotion resources web pages (select ‘fuel poverty’).
Spotting the signs
In the home
- It just feels cold – do you want to keep your coat on when you visit?
- Discoloured or black patches on walls, or a musty smell.
- Condensation on windows and window sills.
- Draughts from cracked or broken windows, gaps under doors, or under the floor.
- Ventilation covers that have been blocked up.
- No central heating or heating not being used.
- Visible risks – overloaded sockets, exposed wires, clothes or furniture too close to fires or heaters.
The person’s habits
- Do they wear lots of clothes indoors, or even an outdoor coat?
- Does it look as if they heat just one room to live and sleep in?
- Are there blankets or hot water bottles by the chair they sit in – as if they are struggling to keep warm?
- Are the curtains kept closed all day?
- Are there signs of poor eating habits, such as wrappers and empty cans but no evidence of proper hot meals?
- Is the person able to move around?
- Have they developed a cough or does their breathing seem more difficult?
- Does their ability to use their hands seem to be getting worse?
- Is their mood low? Are they becoming more isolated?
The recommended indoor temperature is at least 18°C (65°F).
If the home is cold it may be because of worries about the cost of heating. Or it could be because of broken or hard-to-operate heating controls, poor insulation, or even a belief that the cold is better for you.
If you are concerned about someone, these are some key messages to get across:
- Being too cold in your home is bad for your health; keeping warm will also help keep you well.
- Be prepared for cold weather – have food in and make sure you have enough of your medicines.
- Keep active indoors if you can.
- Get financial help to improve heating or help with bills.
- Ask your GP for a free flu jab.
What you can do
Tell people who to contact for help and information or refer them yourself if that’s what they want you to do.
East Sussex Winter Home Check Service
East Sussex County Council is working with local energy efficiency firm Osborne Energy to offer the Winter Home Check Service.
This free service helps vulnerable people on a low income – including families with children, older people and people with long-term conditions or disability – to get advice and support to keep their home warm.
It includes: a full assessment of the client’s home and how best to keep it warm; small preventative works such as improving insulation and boiler repairs; installation of new boilers, central heating systems or home insulation (subject to additional eligibility and limited availability), and; providing emergency temporary heating.
There is also access to advice on financial help with heating costs.
To contact the Winter Home Check Service phone free on 0800 085 1674 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advice for carers
Being a carer can be rewarding, but also tiring, costly and stressful. Contact the Care for the Carers Gateway for information, advice and support for professionals, where you can talk through the options available for carers in East Sussex.