Millions of people will be struggling to heat their homes this winter. Image: Pexels
This virtual map aims to highlight all of the “warm banks” being set up across the country to help people who can’t afford heating this winter.
Over three million low income families can’t afford to heat their homes to protect themselves from the cold, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Energy bills are still rising and are expected to average at £3,000 in April – well over double what they were at the beginning of last year. While many people cannot afford to heat their homes, the UK is facing bitterly cold temperatures.
It is tragic that they are needed, but warm spaces will be a lifeline for people who are struggling in the cost of living crisis.
Launched by a coalition of charities, campaign Warm Welcome is helping churches, community groups, businesses and councils set up the warm banks – which offer a warm place to go for people without heated homes.
More than 4,200 organisations are registered with the campaign and that figure is growing by the day. As campaigners have pointed out, it’s a sign of the bleak state of poverty in the UK that warm banks are needed – but they will help people survive this winter.
The virtual map, found on the Warm Welcome’s website, shows all the warm spaces which are registered with the campaign and are already open. There are nearly 450 open so far, and many more are expected to launch in November.
David Barclay, campaign coordinator, said: “It’s tragic that Warm Welcome spaces are required, but it’s heartening to see organisations stepping up and working together to provide a joined-up, nation-wide response.
“We believe that a movement is stirring which can not just support people through this winter but also help us as a country change direction on poverty and destitution.”
There is an estimated £800 gap between the overall cost of living and support for families on means-tested benefits, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. This means many people will have to look to their communities for support.
There are warm banks all over the country, according to the map, and many are offering more than just warmth. Some are providing hot drinks and food, others have computer access and free WiFi and some have games, activities and even film nights for children.
As the campaign’s website says: “Warm Welcome Spaces come in all different shapes and sizes, from a homework club in a local church on a Tuesday, to an over 65s community centre drop-in on a Wednesday and a library co-working desk open all weekend. Just enter your postcode and requirements to find the right Space for you.”
There are warm spaces specifically for the elderly – like Age UK Hythe and Lyminge, which is also providing free flasks, hot water bottles and energy-efficient light bulbs. And others are running parent groups alongside their warm banks.
The campaign was set up by a number of charities including Christians Against Poverty and Stewardship in association with ChurchWorks, a network of churches which joined together to help communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, has funded the libraries association CILIP to create best-practice guidance to help organisations set up warm banks. These guidelines can be found here.
Nick Poole, who heads up the national working group for libraries, said: “We hope the information contained in this guidance will be useful to any organisation wanting to set up warm spaces for their communities this year and that they will help people to stay warm and safe.”
Lewis, who was one of the first people to call for warm banks, added: “It’s not just for libraries, it’s for any organisation wanting to set up a warm space (the name has rightly changed too, a warm space is a far more approachable place than a warm bank). I do hope you find it useful.”
Many councils across the country have confirmed they are running warm banks this winter, or at least working with community organisations to ensure there are warm spaces for constituents.
If you can’t find a warm bank near you on Warm Welcome’s map, another way is to look on your local council’s website or contact it directly. Even if it is not running a warm bank itself, it should be able to direct you to a charity or other community organisation which is offering support this winter.
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