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Cost of living crisis: Pensioners who feared they wouldn’t survive winter stunned by act of kindness

“We had to do something, Godfrey,” Jeanette Ward tells her husband, “because, it’s like you said, we couldn’t have managed another winter.”

The Wards, from Wigan, are proud pensioners. They own their home and, in their words, “don’t like to ask for help”.

But last week, the couple spoke candidly to Sky News about their fears they “wouldn’t survive another winter.”

The couple, in their 70s, were struggling to make their pensions stretch to cover the cost of rising energy and food bills.

Their boiler was broken and they couldn’t afford to replace it.

They’d had no hot water or central heating for many months and were having to shower at a neighbour’s house.

In tears, the couple told us that, unless things changed, they would probably have to sell their house and move into a home. Something neither of them wanted.

Their story deeply moved our team that day.

And, when it aired as part of Sky News’ special coverage of the cost of living crisis from Wigan, it clearly affected viewers too.

Within a few hours of the report going live, we were inundated with offers of help for Godfrey and Jeanette.

Warm welcome

There were offers of fundraising, support and – the best news for them – a new, free, boiler.

We visited them again to see what has been happening.

The first thing we notice: their home is warm.

“It’s unbelievable,” Jeanette says, “I’m so, so grateful.”

‘We were absolutely frozen’

After our report, the company from which the couple bought their original boiler offered to donate them a new one.

Depher CIC, a community plumbing charity based in Burnley, fitted it for free and have also helped the couple with some of their bills.

“It’s beautiful – feeling so warm now,” Godfrey says, “because we were absolutely frozen.”

“I said to Jeanette, being able to walk upstairs and feel warmth everywhere in the house – it’s just belting.”

Over the winter, the couple heated just one room with an electric fan heater that was ineffective and expensive to run.

Jeanette, who is still recovering from a bout of pneumonia, says they feel “a lot more optimistic now” about the future.

The first thing they did with the heat on?

“We were so worried and it’s just felt so nice having people come and asking us if we need help, saying ‘don’t hesitate to ask us’, and all that.”

What was the first thing they did when they had hot water?

“The washing up!” she says, laughing.

A new boiler and a helping hand with their bills have alleviated some of the couple’s worries, for now.

But they know that, as the cost of living continue to rise, things will continue to be hard for them and others.

‘As long as we’re together’

“I am still worried about bills and food prices,” Godfrey says, “and about what that’ll mean for society. Will there be riots? More crime?”

Jeannette adds: “But as long as we’re together, in our own home, that’s the most important thing for us.

“And I hope other people who are in the same situation as us, may now feel they can ask for help.”

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