A HELPLINE is trying to make sure people in Oxfordshire faced with rising energy bills stay warm this winter.

The Affordable Warmth Helpline has taken dozens of calls since it was set up, offering advice on benefits, grants and energy efficiency.

It is part of the Government’s Warm Homes Healthy People initiative and is staffed by experts who can give advice on coping during the cold weather.

Jessica Brooks, a specialist registrar in public health with NHS Oxfordshire, said: “Cold homes have a significant impact on people’s health and one of the best ways of keeping well during winter is to stay warm.

“With the cost of fuel bills on the rise, however, we know there are people out there who struggle to keep the cold at bay and are at greater risk of getting coughs, colds and more serious illnesses, such as flu and pneumonia.”

Dale Hoyland, project manager at the United Sustainable Energy Agency, which runs the helpline, said people should call and see what is available.

He said: “The number of calls that we have received shows there are people in the county who really worry about managing their fuel bills and are keen to find out how they can save money, make their heat go further and protect themselves from winter illnesses.”

The initiative is funded with the help of more than £152,000 from the Department of Health.

Arash Fatemian, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for adult services, said: “Last year Oxfordshire benefited from a strong partnership that made a real difference to a number of people in the county over the winter. The Government’s funding announcement allows us to build on that success and to enhance the lives of some of the county’s most vulnerable people.”

Call the helpline on 0800 107 0044.