HELP is at hand for South Craven families facing a struggle to heat their homes this winter.

It is feared that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will mean more people than ever before having to make a ‘heat or eat’ choice.

Figures show that in the first two months of lockdown alone, there were 2.4 million new applicants for Universal Credit.

And food banks have seen unprecedented demand for their services.

To mark Fuel Poverty Day, the Warm & Well in North Yorkshire service is raising awareness of its provision and the support available.

According to latest data, 2,394 homes in Craven are affected by fuel poverty – across North Yorkshire, the total exceeds 24,000.

Warm & Well in North Yorkshire says its advisors can help people save money, sometimes hundreds of pounds a year, by assisting them with switching tariffs and changing the way they pay for their energy.

Also, referrals can be made to partner organisations able to offer practical advice and access funding for various measures and repairs. Some people may also be eligible to apply for grants and support will be given with the application process.

Laura Thomas, project manager with Warm & Well in North Yorkshire, said: “This service has been a life saver for many.

“A simple phone call and we may be able to help people save enough money to not have to worry about making these impossible choices between heating their homes and having enough to eat. A warm home is something many of us take for granted, but for others it is far from simple.”

Project co-ordinator, Julia Priestnall, says many people may be facing fuel poverty for the first time.

She added: “A lot of people have seen a significant cut in their income due to redundancies, a reduction in hours or furlough, and many have had to move onto welfare benefits such as Universal Credit for the first time.

“We are working flat out to reach as many people as possible as the temperatures drop. We saved one gentleman £600 on his yearly energy bills recently and have managed to help families in rural areas with properties that are ‘off the grid’ to heat their homes when they have had no one else to turn to.”

Warm & Well in North Yorkshire is a free and confidential service. Call 01609 767555.