Follow Faisal's lead and be the warmth in your community

Shopkeeper Faisal Shaukat is a shining example to us all.

Always a friendly face at Ali’s Jericho Store, Faisal’s customer service goes way beyond the boundaries of his Albert Street shop.

The 28-year-old is the very essence of a good neighbour, going out in all weathers to support his elderly community.

Oxfordshire County Council’s winter warmth campaign is aiming to encourage more champions like him.

‘Be the warmth in your community’ is promoted by the council’s public health team and aims to empower residents to look out for their vulnerable neighbours in lots of ways but especially to make sure their homes are affordably warm.

The public health team exists to improve the health of local people, protect Oxfordshire people from preventable health issues and support the county’s local healthcare service – helping local residents live safe and healthy lives and play an active role in their communities.

When the colder weather arrives, illnesses and deaths among older people and at-risk groups can rise considerably.

You can help prevent this across Oxfordshire by providing support for the elderly, disabled or anyone who feels isolated within their community.

It’s all part of the county council’s commitment to thriving communities – helping people to live safe, healthy lives and play an active part in their community.

Outstanding service

Faisal has been known to personally deliver medicines and parcels, change lightbulbs and even clear snow from driveways.

He said: “There’s such a strong community feeling around here and we’ve always tried to provide a lifeline to people.

“We build up a good relationship with our customers and if they ever need things delivered we’ll do it for them.

“A lot of elderly customers just like to come in for a chat so we’ll try to have a bit of banter with them.”

Faisal has worked at the store for the past 12 years, allowing his parents Ali and Musarat to take a back seat.

Pensioner David Barker is a daily visitor and often asks Faisal to top up his mobile phone.

“I couldn’t be without Faisal,” said the 77-year-old. “He changes my lightbulbs at home, he orders me taxis - he’ll do anything if I ask him.”

David, who has three children and eight grandchildren, is set to undergo a heart bypass operation next month and knows he’ll be relying on Faisal more than ever.

“I already find it hard to walk so it’s going to be difficult, but I know I’m going to be able to rely on Faisal,” he said.

Good neighbours

Community champions are encouraged to check on vulnerable neighbours and make sure they’re warm enough this winter. If you’re worried about someone’s home being too cold, contact Better Housing Better Health - Tel: 0800 107 0044 or bhbh@nef.org.uk. They can help with:

  • cheaper prices for gas and electricity
  • discounts for insulating homes
  • managing debts from fuel bills
  • repairing or replacing heating
  • energy saving tips that save money
  • other options for help and support

The county council’s campaign asks people to be the warmth in their community by helping improve the life of a vulnerable person. It doesn’t sound like much, and it doesn’t have to be all at once, but it does make a difference.

Dr Eunan O’Neill, consultant in public health, said: “It doesn’t have to be freezing or snowing for the body to start reacting to the cold. Homes need to be kept at or around 18C. Much below this, particularly in bathrooms and kitchens, can make existing breathing or heart problems worse. Older or housebound people are more likely to experience heart attacks and strokes in colder weather. In addition, cold homes can cause social isolation and loneliness.

“We want to empower local communities, through good neighbours, to look out for their vulnerable neighbour. Knowing there is a good neighbour on their street can give people real comfort and peace of mind.”

What else you can do:

  • Errands, shopping or collecting prescriptions
  • Household tasks, minor repairs or gardening
  • Visiting or befriending
  • Letter writing or simple form-filling
  • Help getting the grit out of the grit bins
  • Deal with doorstep traders

These are just a handful of ways you can use a little of your time to make a big difference to neighbourhood residents.

Find out more at winter.oxfordshire.gov.uk/warmth