WORK to reduce numbers of preventable winter deaths in Barnsley has won national support with new funding from the Warm Homes Fund and the council also planning its own work in one of the suburbs with the worst track record for the problem.
The Warm Homes Fund is operated through the National Grid and makes money available to improve homes occupied by those vulnerable to cold winter temperatures.
Money has already been distributed to pay for that that work to start in some areas, but the latest round of funding is aimed at “improving the quality and ambition” of the help to be given, with the successful bidders winning support for their expressions of interest, rather than a completed project plan.
Barnsley Council is among them, which provides the opportunity for the staff to now put together a scheme aimed at achieving maximum impact.
That is expected to be a relatively long-term commitment and in the meantime, Barnsley’s North Area Council is planning its own work to tackle the problem because excess, or preventable, winter deaths are known to be a problem in the Darton district.
The area council, which has its own budget to spend on local improvements, is looking at a project to tackle social isolation but plans to use that as a vehicle to improve the homes and welfare of those vulnerable to the effects of winter weather.
Elsewhere in the town where social isolation projects have been launched, they have focused on getting the lonely integrated into mainstream society.
The North Area Council wants to do that but also use the opportunity of visiting residents at home to assess their homes and get help for those seen to be at risk.
It is expected the amount of work needed on the Warm Homes project will mean a longer lead-in time than the work proposed by the area council, where a localised social isolation project in Darton could start much sooner.
Councillors were told by area manager Rosie Adams: “We want officers to be empowered when they go into people’s homes.
“It is not just about linking them up with activities in the community, it is more about looking at their home conditions; whether it is warm enough, whether they are insulated; whether they are on the right energy package.
“It is a pilot project and it needs development work,” she said.
Barnsley is known to have above average mortality rates classed as ‘excess winter deaths’ which are attributed to living conditions and the council has a target to reduce numbers by 15 per cent over the next two years.
Although the reasons for such deaths are complex, cold homes and fuel poverty are known factors and private landlords are now restricted from renting out homes with the lowest energy efficiency ratings as a result.
Although Darton is regarded as one of Barnsley’s more affluent areas, excess winter death rates are among the town’s highest, along with Worsbrough.
Coun Roy Miller said the district had pockets of poor housing and added: “I would be interested in looking at where these deaths are.
“We do have pockets of, usually older type, housing where people have not modernised.
“I wonder how we can get into that and get that kind of detail? We have people on fixed incomes and they may not have the money for things like double glazing.”