It’s that time of year again when the nights are long and bad weather kicks in. We cannot be sure what this winter will have in store for us but one thing is guaranteed, cold and damp weather can affect anyone. This makes every day life difficult, can increase cold related illnesses and, for our most vulnerable, be life threatening. In Leeds on average there are 380 excess winter deaths (December – March) each year suggesting that much more can be done to support those most at risk.
So how can we help? Find out about Winter Friends, part of Stay Well this Winter
What is a Winter Friend?
A Winter Friend is anyone who has a role in supporting vulnerable people but especially during these cold and damp months.
Who should we be looking out for?
Anyone can be at risk of cold weather but those who are at greatest risk are:
- Age 65 and over
- Those suffering from a long term medical condition
- Children and babies under 3 years old
- Pregnant women
- Or a carer
What training does a Winter Friend have?
Each Winter Friend receives training from Public Health, Adult Social Care and the Sustainable Energy & Climate Change Team to develop skills and information such as the signs and symptoms of cold weather and the services available to people in Leeds.
Organisations such as Age UK Leeds, neighbourhood networks, children centres, health and social care professionals and emergency services including West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) are also getting involved through the training.
What do Winter Friends do?
As well going about their normal day’s work Winter Friends make contact with vulnerable people and focus on the ‘Staying Well this Winter’ actions by using the Winter Wellbeing Checklist and prompt card.
Winter Wellbeing Checklist Questions:
- Have you had your flu vaccination?
- If on regular medication, have you had a review of your medicines in the last 6 months to check they are right for you and you are taking them properly?
- Is your whole house warm in winter and heated to a comfortable level?
- Do you find it difficult to afford to pay your fuel bills?
- Have you had any falls in the last year?
- Do you find it difficult to have regular daily hot meals and hot drinks lately? Do you feel your lifestyle is affecting your health?
- Would any of the following be helpful to you? A personal alarm, sensors in a chair or bed, or a falls alarm, which sends an alert to a response centre?
- Do you feel connected to your local community? Do you feel ok and happy in yourself?
- Do you know what to do if there is a cold snap on the way?
The checklist helps the Winter Friend identify which of the 9 support service could help the resident over the winter months. The checklist is left with the vulnerable resident to enable them to make contact with the appropriate service themselves, or if it is deemed necessary Winter Friends can refer on their behalf.
How many Winter Friends are there?
The single network of Winter Friends has been steadily building over the past 3 years and currently there are 67 organisations who are trained, aware of the signs of cold weather and each have access to the winter wellbeing checklist.
What else can I do?
Our Winter Friend, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, have also released their winter safety campaign ‘Cherished’ which particularly focuses on older people. For more top tips on how to help older people this winter, click here
You can also visit our Winter Friends page to download the winter wellbeing checklist for yourself. Please don’t forget to let us know if you have read the Winter Friends page by sending us an email.
Find a local Winter Friend
If you know someone who may need a bit of extra help over the winter such as an older neighbour, family members or friend then contact the Helpline Leeds Directory 0113 3918333 or visit http://leedsdirectory.org to find your local Winter Friend.
If you would like to know more about the Winter Friends programme and how this work in practice please contact Richard.Porter@Leeds.gov.uk
Find out more about Stay Well This Winter and look after yourself too.