PEOPLE across the region are being urged to help raise thousands of pounds to keep elderly people safe this winter.

The campaign, which is supported by The Northern Echo, comes as two pensioners died in freezing conditions in Cumbria earlier this week.

The Winter Relief Fund is managed by the County Durham Community Foundation, which has started the fund with £10,000.

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It hopes people will follow in the footsteps of millionaire nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow, who recently asked to repay his £250 winter fuel allowance, saying he did not need the cash, which is given to all people over 60.

It is hoped that those people who are entitled to the winter fuel allowance but do not need it will donate all or part of it to help those less fortunate.

Yesterday, the first person to donate to the fund was Sir Paul Nicholson, the Lord Lieutenant of County Durham and president of the foundation.

He said: “We do hope that others within the county may feel that this is an appropriate way for them to help those hardest-hit during these difficult times.”

The fund will distribute money to community and voluntary groups in County Durham that work with elderly and homeless people to supply food parcels and/or equipment to help them through the winter.

Other people who have pledged a donation include Lord Barnard, Sir Tom and Lady Cowie and Alasdair Maconachie, the chairman of Supported by The Northern Echo ❆ ❆ Winter Relief Appeal Sherwoods and vice-president of the foundation.

Foundation chief executive Barbara Gubbins said: “It has really taken off and a lot of people have come on board.

“It is not just about highprofile people – it is for anybody who wants to make a donation.”

She said other community foundations across the country had set up similar schemes.

After reading in The Northern Echo earlier this week how charities were mobilising volunteers to help elderly people throughout the wintry weather, it was decided to set up the Winter Relief Fund for the county.

On Wednesday, Lillian Jenkinson, 80, was found in the frozen yard of her home in Workington, Cumbria.

It is believed she may have fallen before she died.

The previous day, father-oftwo William Wilson was found in his snow-filled garden in the hamlet of Waitby, near Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria.

Police are investigating both deaths, and warnings have been issued to check on elderly or vulnerable people living alone.

NHS spokesman Stephen Groves said: “We are asking everyone not only to look after themselves, but to take time to check on those who are most vulnerable.

“Do not assume they are okay or that someone else has checked – go and see for yourself as they may well have run out of food and essential medicines.”

To donate to the Winter Relief Fund, call the foundation on 0191-378-6345 or email christina@cdcf.org.uk Groups who work with vulnerable people and would like information about receiving money from the fund can call 0191-378-6340.

Advice on keeping safe issued by charity

AGE UK has issued a guide on keeping elderly people safe this winter.

The tips are aimed at elderly people and those caring for them.

Ensure people have:

● A store of basic food items and cold and flu remedies;

● Salt and sand to keep icy paths safe.

Make sure they keep warm by:

● Checking that their heating system and electric blanket have been serviced;

● They are wearing warm clothes and shoes;

● They use an electric blanket or hot water bottle in bed;

● They do not go outside for long periods;

● They know the weather forecast;

● They know the recommended daytime temperature for rooms is 21C.

Ensure they stay healthy by:

● Moving and keeping active;

● Eating healthy food with hot meals and regular hot drinks;

● Check they have had their annual flu jab; ● Smokers should try to give up;

● Treat chilblains by dabbing with calamine or witch hazel as scratching may cause infection.

For further details on winter health, call Age UK on 0800-169-65-65 or go to ageuk.org.uk

For advice on paying fuel bills or saving energy, call Home Heat Helpline on 0800-33-66-99 or go to homeheathelpline.org.uk

For 24-hour health advice, call the NHS on 0845-46-47 or go to nhsdirect.nhs.uk