A SCHEME has been launched to try to cut the number of deaths among people who cannot afford to keep warm in winter.

It has been estimated that each year an average of 323 people die cold-related deaths in the Newcastle and North Tyneside Health Authority area.

Now Newcastle City Council and ScottishPower are developing schemes to enable people on low incomes to insulate their homes.

In three Warmer Homes Zones - about 600 households in Woolsington, Fenham and Walkergate - grants towards the cost of cavity wall and loft insulation will be available.

Home Energy Savers is a city-wide scheme offering up to 70 per cent of the cost of insulation in electric and solid fuel-heated properties and up to 50 per cent for gas-heated homes.

Grants for electrical and heating appliances and equipment are also planned.

New Deal for Communities - Affordable Warmth Phase One - started in March and will see 500 private home owners and private tenants offered free loft insulation in the New Deal for Communities areas of Arthur's Hill, Elswick, Rye Hill and Cruddas Park.

Councillor Linda Wright, city council cabinet member for environment, public health and safety, said: "It is one of the great ironies of modern life that the very people who would most benefit from an energy-efficient property tend to be those least likely to live in one or to be able to afford the improvements to bring the property they do live in up to standard. This new partnership with ScottishPower takes practical, effective steps to help remedy the situation and should have a significant effect on the health of some of our most vulnerable citizens."