Britain is bracing itself as arctic air moves in, with up to 8 inches of snow forecast and Met Office amber alerts in place across the UK.
On the back of strong winds yesterday (including a recorded gust of 93mph in Yorkshire), the UK is expecting cold and treacherous weather, with snow and ice likely to cause travel disruption in many areas.
While many people bemoan Britain's national obsession with the weather and the issues a cold snap causes with the country's transportation system - or even find it amusing - for some people, extremely cold weather can be no laughing matter.
Helping older people in winter weather
People more vulnerable to feeling the cold can be concerned about the costs of heating their home, with some showing a reluctance to change energy supplier for fear of how difficult the change might be. As cold weather arrives, it is not always the best time to change energy supplier as tariffs often increase during winter, with higher energy consumption at this time of year.
However, charities such as Age UK can assist those in later life in this process, expelling the myth that this is a difficult process and potentially introducing immediate cost savings for those struggling to heat their homes. Their Winter Wrapped Up guide contains other useful information to help older people throughout the season. They also encourage people to check that they are claiming for all of the benefits they are entitled to, so they aren't literally left in the cold this winter.
In snow and ice conditions, it is more difficult to leave the house and get out and about for everyday essentials. There could be a need for neighbours to look out for old or vulnerable people in their community to ensure that they have enough food stocks, their house is sufficiently warm, their prescriptions are picked up and up-to-date, and pathways around their property are clear or gritted where possible.
Personal alarms and Telecare systems have helped to improve the support situation for elderly and vulnerable people in the community, allowing them to continue leading independent lives wherever possible. Nonetheless, supporting such people not only with their physical needs but also their emotional needs is important, particularly if they are isolated due to weather conditions. Spending a little social time with people can make a big difference to their mental health and wellbeing.
Homelessness in winter
As news has spread of fatalities across Europe amongst the migrant community during recent cold weather conditions, there is also a concern for homeless people in the UK, with growing numbers of people not only with no permanent address but also those living in unsuitable accommodation - overcrowded homes, homes lacking sufficient heating etc.
As bitterly cold weather arrives, the homeless are among those most likely to suffer, particularly where rough sleepers or those without a warm place to stay are concerned. Frostbite, illnesses caused by a low immune system, and even hypothermia and death are possible. Rough sleepers are also prone to increased levels of abuse and violence, according to the national homeless charity Crisis.
If you see a rough sleeper in your area, you can help by referring their details to StreetLink, who will coordinate activity with support services best placed to help with the situation in your area. If you feel uncomfortable approaching somebody who is sleeping rough, you simply need to specify where you have seen them and describe their appearance. In particularly cold and difficult weather conditions, a referral could potentially be lifesaving.
Depression and loneliness are also big issues when people find themselves with nowhere to go and in often desperate situations. Those wishing to provide support to homeless people can volunteer their services through supporting local charities to not only offer physical services - food and a warm place to stay - but also emotional support in difficult times.
Keeping safe this winter
With press reports of a number of NHS hospitals declaring black alerts recently, the burden on services posed by winter weather conditions may be reduced by people willing to give a little time to help those who struggle to help themselves.
Bollington Insurance are proud to support the care and charity sector with insurance and risk management solutions to help them deliver much needed, often vital support to those who need it most. We are also on-hand to deliver claims advice should winter weather be an issue with property or vehicles in your organisation. Please contact us for further information on the services we offer to this sector on 01625 348 029.