PEOPLE struggling to heat their homes in winter have been urged to seek help.

Blackburn with Darwen Council is supporting a campaign to highlight unsafe measures used by people across the UK who cannot afford the increase in their bills when the temperature drops.

The Warm and Safe Homes (WASH) campaign has been launched by fuel poverty charity, the National Energy Action (NEA) and backed by Blackburn with Darwen charity, Care Network.

New evidence provided by frontline workers to the NEA has revealed the top 10 unsafe fuel poverty coping strategies being used to survive winter.

The regular use of older, dangerous or un-serviced heating appliances is commonplace, despite being potentially fatal or leading to heightened risks for nearby neighbours as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning or in extreme situations, fires and explosions.

The charity says many more people are going to bed early to keep warm and using candles to save on electricity.

People struggling to heat their homes are also spending their days in heated spaces such as libraries, cafes or even A&E to avoid the cold.

People most at risk of fuel poverty are older people, those on a low income, people with long-term health conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease or a mental illness, people who are disabled, pregnant and families with young children.

Cold weather increases the risk of heart attack, lung illnesses, flu and other conditions. Accidents also increase as people slip and fall in the snow or ice, risking serious injury.

The year 2015/16 saw 24,300 excess winter deaths in England and Wales – a third of these attributable to cold homes.

In a further move to try and eradicate fuel poverty locally, Blackburn with Darwen Council has commissioned Care Network to provide advice and information for people struggling to keep warm at home.

Care Network offers people help and advice to keep warm at home, including assistance in claiming additional benefits and small grants to help towards improving heating, boiler replacement, loft and cavity wall insulation.

Chief executive, James Hadleigh, said: “We can see that higher poverty levels, poorer housing, high energy prices and ill-health continue to make winter a dangerous time for many.

“Services need to work together to make sure people who are most at risk are identified so that help, advice and support can be offered to those who need it most.”

Cllr Brian Taylor, executive member for health and adult social care, said: “We are delighted to be working with Care Network on this vitally important work. This is part of the council’s strategy to prevent ill health associated with living in a cold home. “Anyone with a concern is urged to contact Care Network. We are determined to try and eradicate fuel poverty locally and this alongside other local schemes and initiatives will help us do so. Keeping people warm and healthy, especially during the winter, is vitally important and a key priority for the council.”

To find out more, call Care Network’s Healthy Homes team on 01254 507255 or visit Care Network Hub opposite the entrance to Blackburn Library.