Guy Pulham, UKIFDA chief executive.
Guy Pulham, UKIFDA chief executive, explains: “The Cold Weather Priority initiative is industry-led and was created in full consultation with, and fully supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
“It has been designed to enable our UKIFDA member heating oil suppliers to identify those most vulnerable so they can ensure deliveries are prioritised for them when there are supply shortages or the weather is extremely cold.
“Since it began in 2017 over 22,000 elderly consumers of heating oil have signed up to the scheme and it proved vital when the Beast from the East hit in February/March 2018.”
The Office For National Statistics states that in the 2017 to 2018 winter period, there were an estimated 50,100 excess winter deaths in England and Wales, and this was the highest recorded since winter 1975 to 1976. An estimated 80 per cent of these deaths occur in people aged 75 and over.
Mr Pulham says: 'The elderly are most at risk during the winter months as cold homes can be so destructive for individuals. Being cold can cause various health problems, increasing blood pressure or reducing the immune system and putting people at greater risk of respiratory illnesses.
'With the scheme, our member suppliers can identify those most at risk from the cold and take proactive steps to prioritise deliveries to them, ensuring they have enough fuel to stay warm throughout winter. A warm house is key in the fight against excess winter deaths.
There are currently 1.5 million homes in the UK and 686,000 homes in Ireland that rely on liquid fuels for heating.
Mr Pulham adds: 'We want as many customers as possible aged 75 and over to sign up to the Cold Weather Priority scheme before winter sets in.
'It costs nothing to be part of the Cold Weather Priority initiative and you only need to ask your local UKIFDA member who supplies your heating oil and they will help. Similarly, if you have elderly neighbours or friends who also use heating oil to heat their homes, encourage them to sign up and stay warm all winter.
'We're also encouraging customers to order their oil before the Brexit deadline of 31st October. We are not expecting there to be problems after this date, but we want everyone to be prepared and to plan ahead so that they can stay warm when winter arrives - and have enough fuel to keep them warm for the duration.'