Could your home be making you ill? Even in mild weather, a cold house or flat can cause health problems, and the risk increases as the temperature plummets.

However, help could be at hand in the form of the Warm Home Check service, offered to people in East Sussex on low incomes who have a disability or long-term health condition or are in receipt of certain benefits.

One person to benefit from the scheme is St Leonards resident Carole who, at Christmas 2018, approaching retirement age and battling long-term health conditions, found herself homeless. For Carole, Christmas dinner was two pots of instant mashed potato.

This Christmas, her life had changed beyond recognition. Having been helped to find a home, Carole sought assistance through the Warm Home Check service and benefited from a new gas central heating system and cavity wall insulation – free of charge.

Homeless last Christmas

She said: “I was homeless last Christmas and had instant mash for lunch but this year I’m in my own kitchen and have got a new cooker, so now I’m able to cook for myself.

“The heating is easier to use and the flat is warmer, so I don’t have to use an electric fire and my bills are cheaper. It’s nice to be in the warm and to have my own space. Being warm makes a difference.”

The Warm Home Check service provides a free, independent energy efficiency check, money-saving advice and tips on how to keep snug, warm and healthy during the winter, along with small heating or home insulation improvements.

In cases such as Carole’s, the scheme can even offer larger improvements such as new boilers, central heating or insulation, where funding is available.

Darrell Gale, East Sussex County Council director of public health, said: “Cold weather increases the risk not just of coughs, cold and flu but of high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes, and older people or families with children are particularly vulnerable.

“On average we see around 350 avoidable deaths a year in East Sussex as a result of the cold, but just by following some simple tips, you can ensure your home is warm enough and reduce your risk of getting ill during the winter.

“The free Warm Home Check service has made a real difference to the lives of those receiving it, so if you think you, or anyone you know, may benefit, I’d urge you to request a visit or tell your friends and family.”

The Warm Home Check Service is commissioned by the county council and provided by Citizens Advice East Sussex and RetrofitWorks – a co-operative which works with trusted local heating and insulation installers.

Find out if you’re eligible and arrange a free Warm Home Check by enquiring on the Warm East Sussex website, texting WARM to 81400 or calling Citizens Advice on 03444 111444, with lines open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

Top tips to stay warm this winter

– keep your home heated to at least 18C (64F)
– draw the curtains at dusk to keep the heat in
– keep bedroom windows closed on winter nights
– make sure your radiators are not blocked
– have at least one hot meal a day and plenty of hot drinks
– don’t sit still for more than an hour – get up and stretch your legs

Carole’s new heating system was installed as part of the national £150 million Warm Homes Fund established by National Grid and administered by community interest company Affordable Warmth Solutions, on behalf of National Grid.