AN ANNUAL 'Surviving Winter' appeal has been launched as experts warn that more people than ever will be struggling to pay their bills.

With 300 cold-related deaths per year on average, the Wiltshire Community Foundation is working alongside Wiltshire Warm and Safe, Swindon and Wiltshire Citizens Advice and Age UK to distribute £200 grants to help people with fuel bills as well as providing energy-saving or benefits to those older or vulnerable in fuel poverty. 

Salisbury Journal: Staying safe and warmStaying safe and warm (Image: Wiltshire Community Foundation)Read more: Historic England removes two burial sites from 'at risk' list

Sustainable Energy's Wiltshire's Warm and Safe Programme, project manager, Shareen Elnagy, is warning that although energy bills have fallen slightly, they are still significantly higher than two years ago. 

She said: “It's hard giving energy advice at times, because there's only so much you can do and with the standing charge being such a large proportion of the bill you've already paid before using any energy."

She has concerns that there will be a number of people falling into arrears because high standing charges will see more people coming to them for help. 

Read more: War veterans join care home to share experiences

Shareen said: “You're not getting rewarded for using less energy, it's like being penalised for having gas and electricity to the property. We have people on pre-payment meters call us and say ‘I put a tenner on  but I've only got £3 on the meter’ and it's because such a huge chunk goes towards standing charge debt.

“I think without the help of the government and with the standing charge debt and the cost of living, everything is so expensive now, it's scary. We'll have even more people asking for financial help.”

The appeal in 2022 helped 3,039 people across 1,892 households and this year, a fifth partner - the Wiltshire Centre for Independent Living has joined the programme. 

Read more: Spectacular 'Bollywood Night' raises money for Mayor's charities

Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Joint Chief Executive Fiona Oliver said: “Every year we hear heart-breaking tales that just shouldn’t be happening in a civilised country in 2023. 

 “The fuel grants help provide people with peace of mind that they can have the heating on, which we are told by experts in geriatric health is essential for older and vulnerable people.

“Also, the extra support and advice our partners supply can increase a households’ income through benefits they are entitled to but either didn’t know about or couldn’t understand how to apply for. We can help fix immediate problems but more importantly, we can leave people better equipped, safer and more hopeful for the future.”

The foundation is asking anyone who can donate part or all of the Government's Winter Fuel Allowance to do so. 

 Fiona added: “This year everyone is under extra financial pressure but support for those who see the colder months as a time of worry and dread has never been more needed – or appreciated."

Donations can be made online at or by calling 01380 738989