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LGA urges people to look out for vulnerable during winter

As winter weather strikes, Surrey County Council has welcomed a call by the Local Government Association for people to look out for the elderly and vulnerable in their communities during periods of ice and snow.

David Hodge, county council leader, said: “Getting through any severe winter weather requires us all to play our part. The county council has been planning for months to make sure it helps to keep the road network moving as much as possible, continues providing services to the most vulnerable and carries on providing grit for residents to spread in their community.

“But the truth is we cannot do everything. If residents and communities support us, things will be much better for the county as a whole. If residents help us by looking out for elderly and vulnerable neighbours and clearing snow away around their own properties, things will hopefully be much easier for everyone. Likewise, if local businesses get together to prepare for the winter, they will no doubt limit the impact of any severe weather.”

The Local Government Association’s press release has been reproduced below.

Councils urge residents to look out for the vulnerable as winter strikes

As snow blankets the country and freezing temperatures set in for at least the next week, council leaders are issuing a call to all community-spirited residents, postmen and milkmen to keep a watch on the elderly and vulnerable.

An estimated 24,000 people died from the cold weather during last year’s relatively mild winter, but with sub-zero temperatures expected right across the country and the rising cost of heating bills, there are concerns the numbers will be higher this year. 

Before Christmas, local authorities leapt into action to support the emergency services in dealing with widespread flooding, providing those affected with access to rescue centres and supplies. Similar plans are in place to ensure councils are ready to respond to the severe winter weather, with staff poised to take on emergency responsibilities to help prevent avoidable harm coming to thousands of residents.

Thousands of council staff are on hand to look after those in need by delivering hot meals, collecting prescriptions, delivering portable heaters, defrosting pipes, fixing frozen boilers and checking in on elderly residents to make sure they are okay. Some councils have also installed temperature alarms in the homes of vulnerable residents to provide an early warning if temperatures drop dangerously low.

The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 local authorities across England and Wales, is asking local residents to support their council by looking out for signs that at risk members of the community might be in trouble. Whether it be milk bottles left outside, newspapers stuck in the letterbox or curtains drawn all day, any sort of unusual activity could be a sign that something is wrong and that someone is in need of help. By acting as the eyes and ears of the council, residents can help local authorities get support to those who need it before it’s too late. 

Cllr David Rogers, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:

“As well as gritting our roads and clearing snow, council teams are ready to be drafted in to provide a variety of services to help the vulnerable deal with the severe winter weather, from carrying out emergency household repairs to delivering hot meals and portable heaters.

“But council staff can’t be everywhere. They rely on community-spirited residents to look out for each other. We are calling on neighbours, postmen, milkmen and paperboys to step up and help save lives by knocking on doors and reporting anything out of the ordinary.

“Just a call on an elderly neighbour who’s perhaps unable to ask for help can make all the difference. They may just need an extra blanket getting down from the loft or perhaps they didn’t get out to collect their medicine this week. It takes no time to check in but could potentially save lives.

“Landlords must also do their bit and check their tenants’ heating is working and if necessary carry out repair work out as soon as possible. Landlords have important responsibilities to their tenants and it’s simply unacceptable to knowingly put off any boiler repairs. Councils will step in and force them to do the job if needs be.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has estimated that there were 24,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in 2011/12, virtually unchanged from the previous winter. The report ‘Excess winter mortality’ is available at the link below.

Media requiring more information from the Local Government Association can contact media officer Jacob Lant on 0207 664 3282.

Media requiring more information from Surrey County Council can contact senior media relations officer James Oxley at james.oxley@surreycc.gov.uk.

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