FAMILIES and elderly people battling to keep warm this winter are being urged to come forward for help to save money on winter bills

Fuel poverty affects thousands of homes across North Yorkshire, 1,890 in Richmondshire district alone and 3,287 in Hambleton.

But Warm and Well says they may be able to help and have already saved one 82-year-old more than £800 on her heating bills.

Warm and Well in North Yorkshire is a partnership project bringing together organisations from the public, private and charity sector with the aim of reducing the number of cold homes and cold deaths within the county.

The project says excess winter deaths are increasing, with a third as a result of respiratory conditions which are made worse in cold weather.

They warn as well as being a threat to life, being too cold at home severely impacts physical and mental health. Arthritis, asthma, stress and anxiety can all be made worse by the lack of warmth.

Warm and Well in North Yorkshire can organise home visits and offers a range of other services to help those at risk of fuel poverty.

One 82 year-old resident, Mary, who lives alone in a house with storage heaters, got in touch with the group after receiving a letter from her energy supplier to say her bills were going to increase again. They did a price comparison and saved Mary £818 a year on her energy bills.

She said: "I am so pleased I changed and am still within my limits with the tariff.

"I am very happy with Warm and Well in North Yorkshire, everyone is so polite and helpful and pleasant.

"They've helped tremendously."

The group also helped Mary get in touch with Citizen's Advice who supported her in applying for Attendance Allowance which she was successful in getting at a higher rate.

As well as switching suppliers, the group can help families benefit from the Warm Homes Discount scheme which is a one-off grant of up to £140 for people on low incomes in the run up to winter.

Of the people helped so far this year, 34 per cent who were eligible hadn’t previously claimed the discount which meant they got a total of £6,720 unclaimed support from the big energy companies.

Laura Thomas, Warm and Well in North Yorkshire project co-ordinator said: "The £140 payment can go a long way to easing financial pressure on families during the winter and is set up in such a way that it reaches those who need it the most.

"It always gives me such a boost to see the difference this discount can make to people’s lives."

Anyone who wants advice and is struggling with keeping their home warm should visit warmandwell.org.uk or call 01609-767555.