Plumber hatches plan to help 1,000 vulnerable households stay warm for free

A plumber is aiming to raise £30,000 to help 1,000 elderly, disabled and less well-off households stay warm and dry over the winter for free.

James Anderson, 52, is urging other tradesmen to offer their help as part of his not-for-profit company Depher, which works with plumbers and heating engineers to provide work for customers unable to afford it.

The Burnley plumber, who says he is receiving 15 calls a day at the moment, is asking for help from the public to raise £30,000 through GoFundMe, which he says will mean he can help 1,000 more families over the winter.

Mr Anderson's kindness went viral earlier this year when an invoice showing a charge for £0 for work on a 91-year-old woman with leukaemia's boiler was shared online.

He then received tens of thousands of pounds to help support his work and also saw an increase in requests.

"A lot of them haven't got a lot of income, a lot of them haven't got a lot of family they can turn to, and most of the time the family they've got can't afford to help them," he said.

"A lot of them are in a situation where they end up paying what they haven't got to get these repairs done."

"The cold weather's coming in now, and we're getting a lot more calls than we're used to because everybody now knows about it," he added.

"A hell of a lot more people have been ringing in for private work and Depher work, a lot of people have now noticed what we do, and a lot of people are ringing up on behalf of family members who need help."

Mr Anderson said a carer contacted him as the woman she looks after in Essex has an oil boiler and no heating or hot water.

He said: "A company wanted £3,000 upfront payment before they'd even go out and look at the boiler.

"This woman's 74, walking around the house in a hat, gloves, scarf - she's on a pension, she hasn't got that kind of money. The majority of people in this country haven't.

"So we're raising extra funds so we can help up to an extra 1,000 household through this winter because it's just getting worse."

He said any plumbers and heating engineers who want to help should get in touch. They must provide their labour free of charge but Depher will pay for parts and £30 expenses per job.

"The more people that come on board, the better it's going to be for us as a trade because we need to get rid of this stigma that a lot of people think that plumbers and heating engineers charge too much and they only do this so they can get the money," said Mr Anderson.

He added his team is going to the home of an 84-year-old woman with cancer and heart problems on Saturday to give her an entirely free boiler.

Another plumber, he said, stripped the boiler down this week, left all the parts on the side, charged her £600 and rang her up to say he is not coming back.