As winter looms so does anxiety for 120,000 people in Britain 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. The winter fuel allowance makes no extra provision for people with disabilities and those with Polio and PPS could be among the hardest hit. As The British Polio Fellowship launches its annual Winter Warmth appeal to help, the charity says much more needs to be done to relieve the suffering of those in most need.
Poor circulation, paralysis and severely wasted limbs are a part of daily life for Polio survivors. The late effects of Polio and PPS make movement exceptionally painful and many are wheelchair users. Despite their circumstances, those with Polio and PPS are united by a determination to live life to the full and yet each winter that goal is made increasingly difficult thanks to the rising cost of heating their homes.
“The lack of mobility and poor circulation means that the cold creeps into my joints and muscles,” explained Bryan Rowley, 80, who has lived with the effects of Polio since contracting it aged 15 months 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-Polio survivor. 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 does not offer any extra help. The winter fuel allowance is a fixed rate for able and disabled people alike and for Polio survivors under the age of 62 who suffering with the same problems – the scheme offers nothing and this is where the winter Warmth scheme aims to help, by supporting those who fall through the gap.
“Thousands of people across the country living with the late effects of Polio and PPS are in desperate need of help in the winter months. The limitations of the winter fuel allowance for able bodied people are well documented but the situation for the disabled is worse,” stated Ted Hill MBE, CEO of The British Polio Fellowship.
“In these situations, charities are left to pick up the slack and our Winter Warmth campaign is needed now more than ever. It is believed that 80% of Polio survivors will develop PPS, which makes already painful joints and limbs even worse and that, coupled with the cold weather means thousands could be facing real hardship and agony this winter.”
The British Polio Fellowship is aiming to raise £30,000 with this year’s appeal, simply 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.
Yet 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.’