Cold Weather Friends volunteers from Gasway help elderly people cut off by ice and snow

Jared Parker, front, with his colleagues at Gasway who are all volunteer 'Cold Weather Friends' in t

Jared Parker, front, with his colleagues at Gasway who are all volunteer 'Cold Weather Friends' in the Age UK campaign. From left, Olivia Green, Chris Griggs, Liam Betts and Judie Jennings. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Meet some of our Cold Weather Friends. Duffle coats are their armour and helping isolated people in ice and snow their mission as part of a pioneering project backed by the Norwich Evening News.

If anyone knows about cold weather, it's the people at Gasway whose skilled engineers are on hand round the clock, 365 days a year, to help with boiler repairs, servicing and installations for tens of thousands of people across the region.

So not surprisingly the company was quick off the mark to support this initiative.

Managing director Liam Betts said: 'We are a company with roots firmly based in the fine city of Norwich and Age UK Norwich is our chosen charity of the year, so we are delighted to be able to play our part supporting this new scheme.

'Our staff are all 100pc behind it.'

Cold Weather Friends, launched this year by Age UK Norwich and Voluntary Norfolk, is calling on older people to register for help if they would be otherwise cut off by prolonged icy or snowy weather.

If wintry conditions reach Met Office Alert Level 3, a volunteer will call those who have registered to make sure they have food and essential medicines. If anyone needs help, the volunteers will visit or contact Age UK Norwich for support.

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About eight people from Gasway are taking part.

Mr Betts said: 'Our staff are very keen to get involved as they are all used to dealing with people on a day-to-day basis, some of them highly vulnerable.

'It goes with the job we all do and we are used to getting things sorted out quickly.

'Hopefully weather conditions will not get bad enough to trigger a Level 3 alert, but if they do it's good to know we are prepared to look after those who most need our help.

'It's a great way to start our year-long relationship with Age UK.'

The pioneering scheme is aimed at older people who don't have a regular friend or family member to help them if the weather turns bad.

About 8,000 older people live alone in the Norwich area, and it is estimated that more than half of them have some form of long-term health problem.

For those struggling to stay independent, winter can be a high-risk time.

Often, people are reluctant to ask for help. But a fall on the ice can easily end in a trip to the hospital.

For older people it could mean a broken hip, and as a consequence losing mobility.

One older person, Jane, told the Evening News on Monday that an arm injury has left her struggling to lift shopping bags.

So the message is: if you want to stay strong, ask for help.

To register your details, or to help as a volunteer, call Age UK Norwich on 01603 496333.

To find out about the many other opportunities for helping the community with Voluntary Norfolk, see www.voluntarynorfolk.org.uk

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