Government Launches Cold Weather Plan for England

Wednesday, 02nd November 2011

Published 02 November 2011.

The Government launched the Cold Weather Plan for England at the beginning of November which is aimed at helping people prepare for the cold winter months. In particular, the plan has been established to help the most vulnerable in the community such as elderly people and those with long-term illnesses, both of whom are at increased risk during periods of cold weather.

The key financial aspects of the plan include making an extra £10 million available to support those at risk of fuel poverty (e.g. through grants for heating insulation or heating improvements) and creating a £20 million fund supported by Age UK for local authorities to address cold housing. The plan also includes a Cold Weather Plan which is aimed at raising public awareness and triggering actions in the NHS, social care and other community organisations to support vulnerable people during the winter months. This guidance tool will be jointly run by the Met Office, the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency, and should help mobilise neighbours, friends and relatives in the community by offering advice around what actions to take during different ‘winter alert’ levels. Alerts will be triggered if mean temperatures are below 2°C for 48 hours or longer, if there is heavy snow or if there is widespread ice, and the alert levels are mapped out as follows:

  • Level 1: Indicates winter preparedness and long-term planning and will be in place from the start of the monitoring period (01 November – 31 March). This is the minimum state of vigilance during the winter. During this time social and healthcare services will ensure that there is ongoing awareness and preparedness
  • Level 2: Triggered as soon as the risk is 60% or above for any of the three thresholds to be breached. This is an important stage for social and healthcare services who will be working to ensure readiness and swift action to reduce harm from a potential period of cold weather
  • Level 3: Will be reached when we are experiencing weather which breaches any of the three thresholds. This stage requires social and healthcare services to target specific actions at high-risk groups
  • Level 4: Only triggered when a period of cold weather is so severe or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system. A Red level warning would be issued on advice from, or in collaboration with Government partners. At this level, health effects may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups

Severe weather can be very dangerous for vulnerable groups and deaths typically increase by 19% during winter months, equivalent to an average of 27,000 additional winter deaths each year. Many of these are as a result of cardiac disease, strokes and respiratory problems, and not hyperthermia as one may expect. In total, the Government estimates that the cost to the NHS of treating winter-related disease is over £850 million per annum.

It is considered that planning such as that encouraged by the Cold Weather Plan for England is a positive step to helping vulnerable groups such as elderly people during the winter period which is a challenging time for many families. In implementing this scheme it will of course remain vital that sufficient support is arranged where required and that providers of care services communicate regularly and effectively with individuals and their family members.

Carefound is a provider of home care services to elderly people in North Yorkshire, enabling clients to continue to live independently in the comfort of their own home whilst maintaining the highest quality of life achievable. The services provided by Carefound include basic help in the homecompanionship and personal care, and its home care team is trained in specialist conditions such as Dementia. The flexible service ranges from 1 hour to 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, including bank holidays, and can also encompass 24-hour Live-In Care services. For more information about Carefound telephone 01423 774070 or visit their website at

Source: Carefound, Department of Health, Age UK.