Winter Week: Bringing information alive to empower Oxfordshire communities

With the worst of the winter weather yet to hit, we’re bringing alive a wealth of information to help Oxfordshire residents.

From Monday, Oxfordshire County Council and partners including Age UK Oxfordshire will be staging a ‘Winter Week’ of support in the County Library at the Westgate Centre.

Advice on everything from being a good neighbour, to staying warm and avoiding shopping scams will be available as the county prepares for a dip in temperatures.

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.

Kate Gleeson, a Strategic Commissioning Manager in the council’s Adult Social Care team, said: “It’s good to think ahead and plan so that you’re ready for winter. There’s a lot of good information out there.

Winter Week is about giving us a presence and trying to engage with people and get them interested in preparing for the worst of the weather. Our Live Well Oxfordshire website has developed into a really good resource of activities going on across the community.”

The website is a one-stop shop to help you stay healthy and active, offering information and contact numbers on a host of subjects including staying independent, money matters, finding a care home, learning a new skill, and getting out and about.

Winter Week coincides with the launch of Part Two of Age UK Oxfordshire’s Staying Well This Winter campaign.

More than 20,000 service users have already read Part One, an A5-sized booklet released in the summer packed full of information and advice and containing a handy checklist of things to do from September to December.

These ranged from booking a boiler service to having your electric blanket tested, booking a flu jab and ordering repeat prescriptions to cover the Christmas and New Year period.

Now Age UK Oxfordshire’s Head of Community Development, Ruth Swift, and fellow members of the team are looking forward to talking people through Part Two.

“It’s in the same eight-page format but this time we’ve repeated the December checklist and now look forward to January, February and March,” explained Ruth.

“It’s about people looking after themselves and helping others. If we all take responsibility and recognise there’s something we can do to help a vulnerable neighbour we’ll be making a big difference.”

Part Two of Staying Well This Winter includes advice from the South Central Ambulance Service about safe driving, a section on reasons to eat more healthily, visiting your pharmacist, taking up a hobby in the new year, and ten good reasons to exercise.

Ruth is looking forward to meeting people in the County Library and spreading the message of the importance of a strong community network.

“Everybody in the community knows somebody, works with somebody or lives next door to somebody who needs that extra bit of support,” she said. “We’ll be talking people through how they can help.”

Also joining in Winter Week will be members of the county council’s Public Health team, which exists to improve the health of local people, protect Oxfordshire people from preventable health issues and support the county’s local healthcare service.

It will be promoting its ‘Be the warmth in your community’ campaign, which empowers residents to look out for their vulnerable neighbours in lots of ways but especially to make sure their homes are affordably warm.

Representatives from the fuel poverty action line Better Housing Better Health will also be present on Friday with advice on how to help residents stay warm.

They’ll be providing information on obtaining 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 and other options for help and support.

If you’re worried about someone’s home being too cold, contact Better Housing Better Health on 0800 107 0044 or bhbh@nef.org.uk.

Members of the Trading Standards team will also be present, warning on the perils of buying fake goods in the run-up to Christmas and other scams prevalent at this time of year.

All this information and more is available from the county council at oxfordshire.gov.uk/winter and our ‘Winter in Oxfordshire’ micro-site news.oxfordshire.gov.uk/oxonwinter/

Cllr Lawrie Stratford, Cabinet member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, said: “We know that winter can be an extremely difficult time for those vulnerable people in our communities who are feeling lonely, struggling to leave their front doors and finding it hard to keep their homes warm.

“Winter Week is not only about providing them with more information, but also empowering local communities 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.

“Our team in the County Library will have all the information at their fingertips and by passing this advice on we hope everyone can look forward to a good Christmas and a healthy and happy 2019.”

Winter Week will be promoted in the main foyer at the County Library from Monday until Saturday, 10am to 4pm (6.30pm Wednesday).