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Warm Welcome scheme accessed by 2.5 million

05 May 2023

WARM WELCOME SPACES

PLACES that offer a warm welcome to those who cannot afford to heat their homes, or who are experiencing isolation, were used almost 2.5 million times last winter, analysis of the scheme shows.

Up to 150,000 people used the Warm Welcome Spaces each week, and, as a result, nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of the spaces in churches and other public places will remain open into the coming year.

“Hello! We’re in charge of meet, greet, heat, and eat!”

The scheme was set up by ChurchWorks: a network of churches working with the Government, charities, and community partners, in response to the cost-of-living crisis, to provide thousands of free spaces to anyone who could not afford to run their heating or felt cut off.

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, described the campaign as “a breathtaking show of bottom-up community resilience and creativity which, if harnessed and nurtured, might lead to some highly significant possibilities. The collective impact has been enormous.”

Outsiders had suggested that the scheme indicated the poor state of Britain, the Bishop said, but he said that, equally, it might show a way out of the country’s present troubles. “The network of over 7000 local groups united in an ongoing commitment to serve those in their neighbourhood holds a number of tantalising possibilities — from driving innovation around community energy and work towards net zero, to utilising community organising methods to build the power to tackle poverty and social isolation.

“With a Warm Welcome Space in just about every community in the country, the network contains a unique combination of grass-roots energy alongside national scale. Far from being an emblem of doom and gloom, Warm Spaces should give us hope that the seeds of progress are already there in communities across the country, just waiting to be fed and nurtured.”

The audit, among 897 of the space organisers by Eido Research, calculated that there were 2,400,000 visits to 4200 Warm Welcome Spaces by more than 550,000 people last winter. Users were also interviewed, and two-fifths said that they often or always felt lonely before using the spaces; but, after attending, that fell to just six per cent.

More than one third (37 per cent) reported feeling isolated before they used the space, compared with just seven per cent afterwards. More than half (54 per cent) said that the alternative was staying at home in the cold.

The former Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned that more still needed to be done. “Britain is one of the richest countries in the world,” he said. “No one should choose between heating and eating. No one should live their lives worrying about how to keep their families warm.”

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