As winter looms so does anxiety for Britain’s 120,000 people living with the late effects of Polio and Post Polio Syndrome (PPS), who face a tragic dilemma when it comes to coping with the winter cold. There are 835,000 fuel-poor homes in England and Wales containing someone with a long-term illness or disability and as the winter fuel allowance makes no extra provision for people with disabilities. The British Polio Fellowship believes that these groups are in desperate need of additional help in the winter months.
The British Polio Fellowship’s Winter Warmth appeal aims to support those with the late effects of Polio and PPS in most need but argues that more needs to be done to relieve the suffering of all disabled people facing heart wrenching decisions when it comes to heating their homes this winter.
New chairman of the Trustees Bryan Rowley who launched this year’s Winter Warmth Campaign
Poor circulation, paralysis and severely wasted limbs are a part of daily life for those living with the late effects of Polio and PPS, which makes movement exceptionally painful. Many are wheelchair users and like many other groups with similar symptoms, are united by a determination to live life to the full and yet each winter that is made incredibly difficult thanks to rising energy prices.
“The lack of mobility and poor circulation means that the cold creeps into my joints and muscles,” explained Bryan Rowley, 80, a member of The British Polio Fellowship who has lived with the effects of Polio since contracting it aged 15months and now lives with PPS. “”Movement is painful enough as it is but when the cold gets in it is excruciating.”
“Blankets don’t do anything really; the poor circulation means I can’t get the warmth around my body. The only real solution is to turn the heating on but often I don’t because I’m too afraid about the cost,” added Bryan. “Last year my bills were 30-40% higher than those of a non-disabled person, that wasn’t because I was being greedy; it was just to keep the pain at bay. This year I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford it.”
Mr Rowley’s circumstances mean that he must turn his heating on or face extreme pain in his limbs, yet despite his extra need the government offers no extra help. The winter fuel allowance is a fixed rate for able and disabled people alike. The situation for those under 62 who may have the same problems is even more bleak this winter, because for them the scheme offers nothing. The Winter Warmth scheme aims to fill this gap for those below retirement age.
“People with these kinds of disabilities are in desperate need of practical help in the winter months. The limitations of the winter fuel allowance for able bodied people are well known but the situation for disabled people and those below retirement age is much more concerning,” stated Ted Hill MBE, CEO of The British Polio Fellowship. “Charities are always left to pick up the slack and for our part, we do our very best to help with our Winter Warmth campaign and I know other charities are doing likewise. Those with disabilities like PPS who are particularly vulnerable to the cold need more support and I would like to see more being done to help them.”
For those disabled as a result of Polio, the situation is likely to grow worse as 80% of them will develop the late effects of Polio or PPS which make already painful joints and limbs even worse. The British Polio Fellowship is aiming to raise £30,000 with this year’s appeal, so those in most need can turn on the heating and sit in their homes without enduring pain because of the cold. The charity receives no government funding for its work and is totally reliant on the generosity of the public to make this happen.
The Winter Warmth appeal is about more than just money. In addition to delivering financial support with heating grants for those who qualify, money raised allows the charity to provide free practical advice to members and others on how to keep utility bills down, plus cold intolerance factsheets and much more.
“The Winter Warmth Appeal always brings out people’s generosity and we hope the kindness of the public will once again help us ensure everyone has a warm winter,” added Ted. “The great British public have dug deep for us in previous years and as always we are deeply grateful for all the support we receive.”
If you wish to donate, there are many ways to do so. You can send a cheque to The British Polio Fellowship central office, make a regular donation via direct debit, or of course you can make a donation by credit card. Simply call 0800 043 1935 and the central office team will be happy to help. Alternatively, visit the charity’s website at https://britishpolio.org.uk/ and click ‘donate.’