Walcott pensioners helped by Norfolk’s �20,000-plus Surviving Winter appeal

A north Norfolk couple can enjoy a warm and worry-free Christmas after receiving a grant from a hugely-successful appeal to help pensioners meet their soaring heating bills.

Over 200 grants have already been made to Norfolk's elderly population from more than �20,000 which has come flooding in to Norfolk's Surviving Winter Appeal.

Research suggests there are more than 60,000 households in fuel poverty - spending more than 10pc of their income on keeping warm - in Norfolk alone. North Norfolk and Yarmouth are the worst-affected areas.

Heating oil rose by 40pc last winter which has had a particularly savage impact in north Norfolk where many pensioners in isolated communities without mains gas have no other choice.

They include Geoffrey and Phyllis Spinks, from Walcott, who are at the mercy of rising oil prices.

They were thrilled to receive a �200 grant from the appeal, launched last month by Age UK Norfolk, the Norfolk Community Foundation and the News' sister paper, the EDP.

Four years ago, when the Spinks had the tank installed, that �200 would have paid the bill with plenty to spare.

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Mr Spinks, 81, remembers paying �130 for the first 500lt delivery. This time the bill was �347 - an increase of 167pc.

They budget on a combined old age pension of �240 a week. Mr Spinks had hoped that now he is over 80, they would receive a �400 Winter Fuel Payment this year, but the amount has been slashed by �100.

'You have got to watch your money all the time to save enough for your oil. We manage and we eat, but we don't buy luxuries - only what we need,' said Mrs Spinks, 76. 'When it gets cold I stick a cardigan on and if it's too cold, we go to bed.'

Each month the couple set aside the meagre amount left, after paying all other vital bills, towards oil but Mrs Spinks said it took a long time to save enough and the unexpected cheque was very welcome.

'I thought it would be about �20, which is a lot to us, but when we saw there was an extra '0' on it, that was lovely - what a relief,' she added.

She and her husband, who worked on the land from the age of 14 until retirement, belong to a proud wartime generation who learned to cope with hardship without complaining.

She said: 'We've no money - but no debts either.'

? Applications for help from the Surviving Winter campaign are being processed by Age UK Norfolk. Payments are usually made within a week to 10 days.

Anyone wishing to apply for assistance, or to find out more on behalf of an elderly relative or neighbour, can call 01603 787111.