BOMBSHELL figures have shown that 500 people across the county have died because they live in cold or poorly insulated homes.

New Government data, produced by the Office for National Statistics, has shown that many households in Cumbria continue to struggle as numbers reveal there were 500 “excess winter deaths” in Cumbria during the winter of 2017-18.

A heating industry organisation says this is partly caused by people living in cold and poorly insulated homes they can’t afford to keep warm.

The figures come as charities like Age UK are giving out Winter Warmth Fund grants struggling to heat their homes.

Jan Fotheringham, one of the charity’s community connectors based at the De Lucy Centre, in Egremont, said the take-up has been brisk.

“We have the fund for people in need, people need to be on a state pension, on pension credit and they don’t have £5,000 in savings - people have got to know about it.”

Provisional figures for last winter, 2018-19, are currently only available by region show that despite an overall fall across England and Wales, there were still 2,900 excess winter deaths recorded in the North West, demonstrating the scale of the crisis facing the region.

Excess winter deaths are defined as the difference between the number of deaths in the winter months, December to March, compared with the previous, August to November, and April to July periods.

Living in cold temperatures, according to the report, can lead to high blood pressure which leads to a lower the immune system which puts older and vulnerable people at greater risk of developing flu, respiratory diseases or other winter illnesses.

Malcolm Farrow, from Oil Firing Technical Association, which represents the oil heating industry, said: “It is deeply concerning to see high levels of excess winter deaths across Cumbria.

“Looking back over the past 10 years the figures reveal very little progress has been made in reducing the number of these largely preventable deaths and in many areas the situation has worsened.

“Supporting the most vulnerable in society needs to be the government’s top priority. We must ensure that any new energy policies protect the vulnerable and do not place additional financial burden on those already struggling.”

It says households should not turn down the heating but to take other steps to reduce bills.

Advice includes keeping the main living area heated to a temperature of at least 21 degrees, adjusting heating timers, bleeding radiators to ensure they run efficiently, turning off radiators in rooms not being used and regularly checking on vulnerable family and friends.