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Vulnerable can turn to charity this winter

Given that the UK is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, I read with dismay - but not altogether surprise - that Northern Ireland has the highest rate of fuel poverty in Western Europe (News, November 1).

As a charity which helps people struggling to cope at this time of year and as if by clockwork, we begin to hear more and more stories of vulnerable individuals anxiously holding their breath, genuinely fearful at the prospect of the latest heating bill coming through their door. Failure to heat one's home properly, particularly in the case of the elderly and the disabled, can have serious consequences for a person's well-being.

Indeed, a recent national poll amongst our beneficiaries showed that before coming to us, 37% of people could not heat their homes, while 32% had had to skip meals.

In a modern, affluent society, no one should risk their wellbeing by being forced to make a choice over whether to heat or eat.

While we recognise that energy companies are not social enterprises, we believe they must do all they can to help their most vulnerable customers, particularly as fuel bills continue to rise.

Charities can help, too. We strongly recommend that anyone worried about their finances this winter should visit our website - www.turn2us.org.uk - where they can check if they are getting all the benefits and charitable grants they might be eligible for.

FINBARR FITZPATRICK

Elizabeth Finn Care

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