Many families are facing a difficult winter ahead with increased hardship, a new report shows. Higher energy use resulting from having to stay at home for longer and a huge reduction in income have produced a toxic combination, researchers at Sheffield Hallam University have found.

In Cumbria, adding our already problematic leaky housing stock to the equation, the evidence is that the risk will be heightened for vulnerable groups who will have to make a heat or eat choice this winter. This combines to produce a bleak forecast of the next few months for many residents.

The report Stuck at home in a cold home: the implications of Covid-19 for the fuel poor states that the risks to health associated with a cold home are well known but adding in the threat of Covid-19 (which also attacks the respiratory system) could prove lethal to many and cause a surge in hospital admissions. This, in turn, puts more strain on an already over stretched NHS.

The charity Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS), which offers a free energy advice scheme called Cold to Cosy Homes Cumbria, is expecting a higher-than-normal demand this winter, as more people than ever feel the squeeze and struggle to afford measures to keep their home warm on their income.

Kim Kimberlee-Smith from Cold to Cosy Homes Cumbria said: “We’re heading into a worrying time for a lot of people who are struggling with cold homes and high energy bills, but we can help. Now is the time to get in touch with us, so we can help before the winter really bites.”

The service offers free, clear advice and practical help from a qualified energy advisor and is available across the whole of Cumbria to anyone who meets the broad criteria, but capacity is limited and people are encouraged to apply now.

This includes guidance on heating, damp and ventilation, energy tariffs, adopting energy-saving behaviours and equipment, such as LED bulbs, radiator reflectors and draught excluders, which can be provided at no extra cost. The service also offers referrals for professionally installed draught proofing, smart meters, thermostats, boiler repairs, replacement white goods and other local services that could help save energy.

There’s also help available for the wider schemes in the county, such as installing insulation or first-time central heating. Along with keeping homes greener, these services save Cumbrian households money and could help to alleviate some of the stress of the wintery months.

This year, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, Cold to Cosy Homes advice is being given over the telephone rather than through home visits, so anyone that feels they could use the support to warm up their home and free it from draughts should get in touch. Draughtproofing installations may be going ahead soon using a strict risk assessment.

Households can find out more and apply at or call 01768 216500 to talk to one of the team.