The Heating and the Meeting
On 15th May we published our Impact Evaluation Report for the Warm Welcome Campaign 2022-23. Having worked on it for several months with the excellent team at Eido Research, it felt like a significant moment as we were able to share publicly for the first time the incredible difference that Warm Welcome Spaces up and down the country have made. It also marks a crucial opportunity for reflection as we consider what there is to learn from the extraordinary journey we’ve been on in the last 9 months and what it might mean for the future of Warm Welcome.
Some of the numbers contained within the Impact Evaluation Report are quite remarkable. We estimate that our network of just over 7000 Warm Welcome Spaces received around 2.4 million visits over the winter. More than 50% of those visiting the Spaces said that they would otherwise have been at home with the heating off. 60% said that attending the Space had helped them financially. Taken together, these numbers indicate the Warm Welcome campaign achieved what it set out to: providing practical and material support to as many people as possible who were struggling to heat their homes due to the Cost of Living Crisis. As one person said of their local Warm Welcome Space, “it’s helped me cope with the hard times...knowing if I don’t have food there’s somewhere that I can get help from that’s close to me is also a big relief.”
But perhaps the most striking numbers in the Impact Evaluation relate less to the economic impact of Warm Welcome Spaces and more to their social purpose, particularly in tackling loneliness. When we asked people how often they felt lonely before they started coming to a Warm Welcome Space, almost 40% responded with ‘always’ or ‘often’. But when asked how often they felt lonely since coming to the Space, this number dropped to just 6%. And we got similar levels of positive change when we asked about feelings of isolation and sense of purpose. It’s clear from these numbers that whilst many people came to Warm Welcome Spaces for the warmth, they came back for the welcome, the sense of belonging and the connection that they found. And although the largest group of Warm Welcome visitors were over 65 and retired, we did also see a significant proportion of younger people (and particularly parents with small children) getting involved. Throughout the winter we were inundated with individual stories that bear the scale of the impact on visitors, even including one person who said “If I didn’t come here I would have killed myself, now I look forward to coming and seeing people who care about me.”
Of course stories like that make all the hard work that’s gone into the Warm Welcome campaign more than worth it. But as well as the stories of individual lives transformed, we’ve also been amazed at how many local organisations have been revitalised through their engagement with Warm Welcome. Almost 30% of Spaces said they wouldn’t have been open without the national Warm Welcome campaign, and around 70% of Spaces said they’d seen more people coming to them as a result of their participation. This story from a Warm Welcome Space Co-ordinator was typical of the feedback we received:
“Although our venue is in the heart of the community not many knew about it. On promotion as a warm space, it has now been recognised. People have visited the venue and have expressed an interest in getting involved in our activities.”
And this sense of Warm Welcome Spaces becoming genuine community hubs seems to be filtering through the whole of society, with funders, Local Authorities and even National Government starting to direct their attention and their resources to build on the extraordinary work that has taken place throughout the winter months. In Birmingham, for example, the Council now talk about their 200+ Warm Welcome Spaces as ‘the new normal’ in terms of how people can find connection and support as well as accessing all kinds of public and commissioned services. And in Sheffield we’ve seen the local Citizens Advice Bureaux employ a trainer to work with Warm Spaces to upskill volunteers in order to create a more resilient system across the whole city. In was notable in our Impact Evaluation that more than 50% of Warm Welcome visitors had been signposted to other forms of support, whether on benefits, housing, mental health or legal advice.
So, what have we learned from the Impact Evaluation overall, and what are the implications for the future of Warm Welcome? The primary takeaway seems to be, as Gordon Brown often says, that Warm Welcome is “about the heating and the meeting”. That might seem like a simple observation, but we think it has huge implications. The Warm Welcome campaign was started as a response to the Cost of Living Crisis, and particularly in the context of millions of people who were unlikely to be able to keep their homes warm. The Cost of Living Crisis isn’t likely to disappear any time soon, but it does look like energy bills will start coming down significantly in the coming months (although it’s worth noting that they are still predicted to be more than £1000 a year higher than in 2021). Should we therefore declare ‘mission accomplished’ and pack up the Warm Welcome campaign?
If Warm Welcome was a purely economic affair then that might be worth considering, but if we are equally interested in the relational impact of Warm Spaces as the material impact then it seems clear that we’re just getting started. In a study that could just as easily have been produced in the UK, the US Surgeon General recently released a report that concluded “Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation has been an underappreciated public health crisis that has harmed individual and societal health. Our relationships are a source of healing and well-being hiding in plain sight – one that can help us live healthier, more fulfilled, and more productive lives.” Our Impact Evaluation suggests that Warm Welcome might be the single most strategic opportunity to increase social connection in the UK, yoking together efforts to tackle economic injustice and social dislocation and giving a collective identity to thousands upon thousands of organics grassroots organisations and initiatives. With 74% of Warm Welcome Spaces saying they joined the campaign ‘to be part of something bigger’, and 78% saying they would want to be involved again next winter, we have an enormous opportunity to crowd in more and more resources towards building on the efforts of the last 9 months.
In Birmingham they sometimes talk about Warm Welcome Spaces as a flotilla, with ‘ships’ of every shape and size all operating with a common mission. So perhaps we should think of the national Warm Welcome campaign as an Armada, with thousands of faith groups, libraries, community groups, theatres, sports clubs, businesses and others fighting the dual enemies of poverty and social disconnection. And if the British Navy was once the pride of the nation and the envy of the world, then perhaps we should set our sights on Warm Welcome becoming a defining feature of British social life and an example to the world of the possibilities of modern civic revival.
How To Care for Warm Welcome Volunteers
Volunteers have been crucial to Warm Welcome. Volunteers were also crucial to COVID. What can we learn in Warm Welcome from the work that has been done to understand volunteering and the pandemic?
The Relationships Project is a partner of the Warm Welcome Campaign. In this blog piece, their team shares insights and learnings they gained during COVID to help Warm Welcome spaces explore questions around sustaining, fulfilling and growing their base of volunteers.
In the early stages of the COVID 19 pandemic, we witnessed an outpouring of community support. Mutual aid and other hyperlocal groups stepped up to shop for shielders, pick up prescriptions, and boost morale. Some of these groups existed long before the pandemic began, others sprung up in response. Across the board, we saw that where community relationships were already strong, the response was swifter and more effective.
At the end of September 2020, YouGov took a snapshot of the Covid volunteering effort for us.. They found:
- 8.95 million people (17% of UK population) got involved in some sort of community activity
- 39% had done little or no volunteering before the pandemic
- 70% plan to continue doing the same amount or more once the pandemic is over (that’s 6.27 million)
Active Neighbour Personas
Of course, numbers can only tell you so much. At the end of 2020 we did a deep dive into the motivations, needs and energy of those who have cared together through lockdown, burrowing into the stories that lie beneath the statistics. Through this research emerged a set of ‘personas’ - clusterings of behaviours, experiences, motivations and needs.
The persona groups that we present are not meant to be restrictive categories or exclusive boxes in which people are confined, but instead are intended to be indicative typologies which highlight different flavours, commonalities and themes. Some people will identify with more than one persona, others will move between groups at different points in time as their circumstances shift and change.
The 5 Active Neighbour personas that emerged through our research are:
For more, take a look at the Active Neighbours Field Guide
Ministers called those who got involved in the Covid response a “volunteer army” but few described themselves as volunteers and they certainly did not see themselves as an army ready to be redeployed. Most weren’t mobilised by an organisation, instead they were willing citizens making an individual commitment and self-organised through horizontal, rather than hierarchical, relationships. This was change in a different currency: organic, relational, much more “Me Too” than “Neighbourhood Watch”.
As the most acute phases of Covid abated, we discussed the need for volunteers to ‘hibernate well’, consolidating new connective tissue to enable a swift and effective response to future crises. For this to happen, volunteers need to feel their contribution has been needed, recognised and valued. Taking time to celebrate and thank all those who have stepped up must therefore be a priority.
Find out more
- Our Active Neighbours Field Guide delves into the motivations and needs of each of the Covid volunteer persona groups, and sketches out pathways forward for nurturing the commitment going forward.
- Our friends at Be Someone For Someone in Australia have created a quiz to help you identify which ‘type’ of volunteer you are.
- For more insight and learning about the social response to the Covid pandemic, take a look at The Relationships Observatory.
These lessons throw up a number of key questions for people involved in Warm Welcome. As we think about our strategy for next year, we will be reflecting on these as well as our own data and polling that shows that 35% of adults in the UK would consider volunteering at a Warm Space.
Warm Spaces - Symbols of decline or seeds of renewal?
Spring is a season of hope, and this year more than ever it feels we have cause to celebrate the end of what has been a particularly grim winter, not just in terms of weather but for the millions of families in the UK that have struggled to stay warm and fed due to the Cost of Living Crisis. In this light we might be tempted to bid a particular good riddance to what has been a novel and striking feature of British life, namely the rise of ‘Warm Spaces’ which our impact assessment reveals have received over 2.4 million visits this winter.
For many the sight of faith groups, libraries and other community settings offering places of warmth to those struggling to heat their own homes perfectly encapsulates the mess that this country is in. It was hard not to despair at the state of British politics watching Prime Ministerial hopefuls last Autumn argue endlessly about tax cuts for the better off whilst millions faced imminent destitution. At the Warm Welcome campaign, it was striking how many media requests we received from international outlets who saw the warm spaces we coordinated as emblematic of Britain’s economic malaise.
Yet there is another side to the Warm Space story, one that deserves careful reflection from those seeking progress in the face of Britain’s many challenges. For what we have witnessed in the Warm Welcome campaign is a breath-taking show of bottom-up community resilience and creativity which, if harnessed and nurtured, might lead to some highly significant possibilities.
Assembled at break-neck speed last Autumn, Warm Welcome has been driven by a coalition of charitable organisations all seeking to support authentic local responses to the Cost of Living Crisis. With a low bar to entry (Warm Welcome Spaces simply have to be free to enter, warm, welcoming and safe), the campaign saw thousands of groups sign up in a matter of just a few weeks. For some, Warm Welcome provided a banner under which to grow and expand their existing activities – extending hours, running new sessions, reaching new parts of the community. for others it has been a catalyst to try something new – film nights, homework clubs, community meals.
The collective impact has been enormous. With Spaces welcoming up to 150,000 people each week, Warm Welcome has been inundated with stories of people finding not just places of warmth but of connection and meaning. Feelings of isolation and loneliness for visitors collapsed by 85% after using our spaces.
But perhaps the most striking thing about the campaign is the energy is has generated in host organisations, many of whom have found themselves revitalised in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic. And even with winter coming to an end, there is little sign of this energy dwindling. More than 70% of Spaces plan to carry on into Spring and beyond. In places like Bristol and Birmingham, Councils are now working with Warm Welcome networks as a ‘new normal’, seeing them as a kind of bottom-up safety net through which people can access all manner of support and advice on issues like damp and mould, debt, employment and mental health.
Given all of this, it is worth asking not just what the rise of Warm Spaces might say about Britain’s problems, but also what it might tell us about the pathway out of our present troubles. In Robert Purnam’s seminal work The Upswing, he notes that innovations like the Rotary Club were “one of hundreds of similar organisations and associations started during the Progressive Era, each an outgrowth of a wider cultural turn away from atomization and individualism and toward ‘association’ and communitarianism...these groups proved remarkably enduring, creating a vast store of social capital that fuelled the nation’s upswing for decades.”
Closer to home, thinkers like Marc Stears at the newly-launched UCL Policy Lab are emphasising the importance of what he calls ‘ordinary hope’ in forging a better national future. As Stears puts it, “heroism is not going to come from traditional places and orthodox places, it’s going to come from places which are dismissed as parochial and mundane… you’ve got to have big change, but the way you get to big change is by building big coalitions, not by engaging in polarised, narrow politics.”
Viewed in this light, the Warm Welcome 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 grassroots 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 Guardian: More than 500,000 people in UK visited ‘warm rooms’ during the winter
The Warm Welcome Campaign has been working closely with Eido Research to carry out an Impact Evaluation exercise, collecting data about the cost of living crisis and the difference Warm Welcome spaces made this winter. We are so thankful for all the hard work of spaces and volunteers to provide so much support to those in need over the winter. The Guardian published an exclusive article with some of the findings. We will be reflecting about our data in the next few months as we consider our strategy for next year. The full report will be published shortly.
Read the article here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/apr/26/warm-rooms-winter-loneliness
The Value of Volunteers at Wooler Warm Hub
Our warm welcome project started as a response to the cost-of-living crisis both nationally and in our own local town. My role as a Church Related Community Minister started in July 2022 with a target to link church and community together, addressing the issues of isolation, loneliness, and food poverty. Our warm welcome is a project that meets all of these needs in a simple but positive way.
After acquiring some funding from Community Action Northumberland, we started out small with a few volunteers, a simple rota, and a bulk purchase of instant soup mix.
It was an instant hit… apart from the soup mix. I liked it, but quite frankly people wanted something better. So a couple of volunteers offered to make homemade soup. We had all sorts; tomato and basil, carrot and coriander, potato and leek, homemade broth, the list goes on…
This then led to volunteers starting to try and outdo each other with their soups, leading to a mini version of Bake Off.
We recruited more volunteers until we had a firm team of about 12 coming to the hub on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The local co-op donated packs of rolls every day and we established a system of at least two choices of homemade soup every day.
Another volunteer then offered to bring cheese in and then some more started baking.
By the end of the Warm Welcome, people who came had about 3 different soups to choose from as well as bread, cheese, and a variety of cake. The generosity of volunteers who made soup and cake for free was overwhelming.
But I think the best bit was seeing the difference the warm welcome has made on people. Friendships have been made, a relationship has started, and two members have just gone on a week’s holiday together. It has changed people’s lives, some have started coming to church, some have gotten involved with other activities. One member said that they would be lost without the warm welcome and how wonderful it was to have a warm meal three times a week.
We even did home deliveries. We discovered that there were several residents living nearby who just couldn’t get to the hub, so three times a week we took them some soup and a roll and had a bit of a chat on the doorstep.
It’s a project I’m incredibly proud of, but I’m really just the organiser. The endless generosity and enthusiasm from the volunteers with their soup making, cake making, and deliveries has turned this project into something that is really special.
It quickly became clear that although our warm space was due to end at the end of March, it really was a lifeline to people and we couldn’t just stop altogether, so throughout the summer we are meeting every Monday 10 – 12pm for coffee and cake. You’ll not be surprised to read that we have a variety of cake to choose from.
We are already looking forward to starting up again in October where soup and home deliveries will resume once more. But in the meantime, those friendships and relationships will continue and people in Wooler may no longer be as lonely as they might have been without this initiative.
What Libraries Learned Through The Warm Welcome Campaign
The following blog piece is a reflection by Warm Welcome Campaign partner, Libraries Connected. It outlines findings about libraries that offered Warm Welcome spaces this winter, as brought to light by the webinar ‘Warm Spaces: What Next?’.
Libraries have played a vital role this past winter in providing warmth and support for those affected by the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
Whilst libraries function all year round as public spaces in which people can shelter from extreme cold or heat, the financial pressures experienced by so many in 2022 – particularly related to rising fuel prices – meant that this role was cast into the spotlight on a national level.
Our briefing note on the cost-of-living crisis, published in September 2022, suggested that most public library leaders were actively looking at taking part in a ‘Warm Bank’ scheme. We were also aware in the summer of 2022 that many libraries were preparing for an increase in people visiting for warmth by installing extra desks and comfier chairs. We know that library services followed through on these plans with alacrity.
All 47 of Norfolk’s council-run libraries were turned into ‘warm spaces’, giving those struggling to heat their homes the chance to sit in comfort with free hot drinks or soup. Norfolk, like many other services, joined the ‘Warm Welcome’ campaign. Libraries could use this website to register their location as a warm space.
On Thursday 23 March we held a webinar, ‘Warm Spaces: What Next?’ with three guest speakers. We were joined by Sam Marshall, Operations Manager at Hampshire Public Libraries, David Barclay, Manager of the Warm Welcome Campaign and Ravneet Virdi, Head of Tackling Loneliness, Department for Culture, Media and Sport. This was a timely and important opportunity not only to reflect on libraries’ experiences of running ‘warm spaces’ during the winter of 2022-23, but to look at how those projects might help inform future schemes within the library sector.
Sam told us about Hampshire’s early preparatory activities. In October 2022, the service distributed 800 ‘warm bags’, 3000 food vouchers and held coat exchanges for those most in need. Alongside these emergency activities that came out of the cost-of-living crisis, Hampshire made sure to publicise their ‘business as usual’ offer. Much of the service’s existing offer, including signposting to services such as foodbanks, is helpful to those in need of assistance. However, the service also went far beyond its usual offer in working with partners to develop community pantries and fridges in four of its libraries.
On Hayling Island, the library now works with the pantry to provide an after-school club for children ensuring they have access to a snack and a drink in a warm safe space. Sam told us that Hampshire’s ’Warm Welcome’ campaign has led to a significant increase in the use of these pantries in the latter half of the year.
Sam pointed out that a specific challenge arising from Hampshire’s campaign is how to ensure that those who come to the library for support remain in the building to take advantage of the many benefits libraries offer. Whilst the food vouchers proved very popular, many recipients picked them up and left the library almost immediately.
Convincing customers to stay for longer will be a focus of Hampshire’s campaign this coming winter.
David’s talk was particularly valuable for highlighting the coordination that has occurred because of the establishment of the ‘Warm Spaces’ network. He explained that libraries, churches and community groups have fostered new connections as part of the campaign. David explained that these local networks can form new and surprising partnerships with local charities and businesses. In Carlisle, for example, an animal charity offered free pet food to those using warm spaces in the city.
David explained that the challenge for the future will be creating a warm space infrastructure that can support local organisations, building on the work achieved so far. Ideally, David said he sees warm spaces in the future as part of the social fabric of the UK. He suggested a future in which visiting warm spaces during the winter is not an economic but a social necessity and normality. However, David stressed that extra resources must be made available if this idea is to become a reality.
In the final part of our webinar, Ravneet provided valuable lessons for the development of warm spaces drawn from DCMS’s work on loneliness. To encourage social connections, warm spaces might focus on shared, group activities. As Ravneet noted, libraries are ideally positioned because they already provide these activities on a daily basis. As a significant contributing factor to loneliness is living alone, she suggested exploring community transport schemes to bring people into warm spaces like the library.
It was clear from Ravneet’s talk that the future of warm spaces lies in connecting them not just to physical services like these transport schemes but to schemes such as social prescribing. Given their multivarious links within the local community, libraries are ideally placed to fulfil these roles and function as central pillars in the next phase of the warm spaces project.
In Conversation: Rural & Urban Warm Welcome Spaces
This recorded conversation is led by Mark Betson, a Warm Welcome campaign partner and Church of England National Public Policy Advisor. Over the course of the winter, Mark has been considering the differences between urban and rural Warm Welcome spaces, and encouraging the campaign to be innovative in addressing the respective challenges of each.
Here, Mark facilitates a discussion that highlights the observations and experiences witnessed by local leaders addressing the cost-of-living crisis and fuel poverty in the village versus the city.
The interviewees are;
- Stephen Radford, a Methodist Church Minister running six Warm Welcome spaces in the Kirkby Stephen and Appleby circuit area, which has the lowest population density and lowest average income in Britain.
- Jodie Brown, General Manager of The Dove Cafe in Beaconsfield, which is attached to St Thomas’ Church set in an urban area where around 100 people visit the cafe every day.
Key highlights include observations about the demographics of space users, the obstacle of rural transport, the emergence of loneliness and isolation amongst families and children, the work of Linking Lives with Warm Welcome spaces, the journey with Ukrainian refugees in urban and rural areas, and the future of Warm Welcome spaces through local eyes.
Addressing Loneliness through Warm Welcome Spaces
As a national Christian charity focusing on addressing social isolation and loneliness, Linking Lives UK began partnering with the Warm Welcome Campaign from an early stage as we could see that there was likely to be a close link between fuel poverty and levels of loneliness.
This was likely to be as a result of an increase in ‘closeting’ behaviour in which those concerned about rising fuel costs, remained (often alone) in one room to conserve energy. This inevitably led to higher likelihood of marginalisation and isolation from the wider community and, as a result, a greater expectation of loneliness. This would be compounded by darker evenings which can also impact levels of depression and poor mental health.
In general, there have been continuing high levels of loneliness across people of all ages in the UK over recent years. For example, 45% of adults feel occasionally, sometimes or often lonely in England. This equates to twenty five million people (Campaign to End Loneliness).
Research carried out by the BBC, however, found that it is now the 16-24-year-olds who are the loneliest age group in the UK (BBC Radio 4, All In The Mind. “The Loneliness Experiment”). There continue to be significant impacts to health and wellbeing and loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Triggers to increased loneliness are many and varied but can include relationship breakdown, retirement, homelessness or moving home.
Early feedback following the launch of the Warm Welcome Campaign did, in fact, emphasise the likely impact in addressing loneliness and there were many stories from those attending quoting ‘an improved sense of community’ and ‘being part of a ‘welcoming environment’ as key benefits. These early signs demonstrate that there may well be more of a benefit from the ‘Welcome’ elements of these spaces as there are from the physical ‘Warm’ environments (although this is clearly important!).
As Warm Welcome spaces continue to develop, it will be important to reflect clearly on these outcomes and benefits so as to shape future activities during autumn and winter 2024. This could involve tailored training for volunteers engaged in running spaces to provide them with the tools, understanding and knowledge required (such as our ‘Good Conversations Volunteer course’ mentioned below).
There have been three key ways in which we have been partnering with Warm Welcome and we are pleased that these will be continuing.
- Isolation Outreach Project - Our focus and experience in addressing loneliness, enabled us to bring this perspective as part of the campaign. This led to our recognising that there were likely to be people unable to leave their homes to attend a Warm Welcome space due to rural isolation or physical, emotional or mental health reasons. As a result we collaborated with other Warm Welcome partners to explore options to pilot projects which enable Warm Welcome spaces to provide outreach opportunities which involve volunteers visiting those in these circumstances. This work is ongoing.
- Good Conversations Volunteer Training – We run regular two hour webinars (or face to face sessions) aimed at those engaged in community based activities such as community cafes, drop-in centres, lunch clubs including Warm Welcome spaces. The training includes guidance on ‘effective listening skills’, ‘boundaries’, ‘safeguarding’ and other key subjects. These are run on a regular basis with discounts available for those who are part of a Warm Welcome project. (https://linkinglives.uk/good-conversations/)
- Two’s Company Befriending Schemes – We currently work with 50 churches and other organisations to run befriending schemes across the UK. Our template package enables local groups to set up a scheme in the community in which volunteers visit or telephone those in their community most in need of regular company. We are currently exploring ways in which this model can be used in conjunction with Warm Welcome spaces throughout the year to provide outreach to those unable to attend community buildings.
We have found the opportunity to partner with so many inspiring national, regional and local charities and organisations from a breadth of backgrounds and experience an extremely rich and rewarding experience and we look forward to continuing to engage with the process in the coming months. We always look for ways to engage with other organisations where there is benefit in doing so, and the Warm Welcome Campaign is a testament to this as we have collectively made an impact on the lives of many thousands of people in the past 8 months.
For further information about any aspect of our work, please use the contact details below.
A Warm Welcome for Children and Families
Let’s face it, the last few years have been hard on everyone. But, just now, I would like to spend a few moments thinking about families. The last few years have definitely been hard on families!
Lockdown and school closures affected everyone differently, but we know that many families who were already vulnerable were hit especially hard: Families with cramped living conditions or limited access to outdoor space, with nowhere for children to run off steam. Families living with disabilities or special educational needs, with no opportunity to get a break. Families on low incomes, struggling to feed and entertain their children. Single parent families and families struggling with Mental Health challenges, with no one to share the burden
Without the support of extended family, schools, and community networks many families struggled during the years of the pandemic. And now, just as soon as lockdowns ended, we find ourselves embroiled in both a Cost-of-Living Crisis and a Mental health crisis and it's no secret that it is often the same families that are, once again, facing the biggest battles.
Are these exceptional circumstances? Will everything be alright once we get through this latest crisis? Hopefully for some families, yes, sometimes trouble is just for a season. The reality is, however, that no matter what is happening globally there will always be some families who are experiencing a season of personal crisis or hardship.
It has been inspiring to see so many churches and community groups step up this winter and join with the warm welcome campaign to offer warm, safe spaces for members of the local community to come together and support one another in this time of national crisis. Isn’t that the kind of world we want to live in? One where communities pull together, share their resources and care for one another whenever the need arises?
I live in the tourist village of Haworth in West Yorkshire. Every year Haworth hosts a “1940’s weekend” and the village is flooded with nostalgic people in costume celebrating all that was wonderful and memorable about life in the forties. Sometimes that can jar a little when we remember that, alongside the outfits and the community spirit, the forties was a decade filled with unspeakable horror. People often talk nostalgically about how people really pulled together in the War. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if looking after your neighbour and supporting each other through personal circumstances was a priority in every community, all the time, with or without a global crisis to contend with?
At TLG Make Lunch we equip churches to support local families with nutritious meals that create community and connection. Our network of partner churches has been running Make Lunch clubs; serving hot food, providing fun activities, and nourishing rich friendships during school holidays for over ten years. As Winter 2022 approached it was clear that the national crisis would mean that even more families across the UK would be struggling to keep warm and fed as energy and food prices soared. We were encouraged by the call to action of the Warm Welcome campaign and many of our Make Lunch clubs joined in, registering their Lunch club sessions as Warm Spaces so that more families could find us.
I, for one, am very relieved that winter is almost over, however, what has always been clear at Make Lunch is that providing a “warm” welcome is not limited to the physical temperature of our space. As we head into Spring, it is important to notice that the challenges that so many families are experiencing are not simply going to evaporate in the sunshine. Families will continue to need support from the community around them.
Let us hope that the increase in community spirit and desire to help that has birthed in this most recent time of crisis will continue to grow, as relationships are formed and communities begin to journey with one another through all the variety of challenges that life brings.
Joe’s Story | Subtitled on Vimeo
TLG Make Lunch Cleveleys are just one of our lunch clubs who registered with Warm Welcome this winter.
TLG Make Lunch offers training, equipping and support to churches wanting to make a difference to families in their local community. To find out more about how your church can get involved in hosting free lunch clubs that build connection for families in the holidays visit https://www.tlg.org.uk/your-church/make-lunch.
Kings Church Halifax have created a Warm Welcome space for their community as a response to the cost living crisis. Based in a deprived area, the church building is open every day of the week and the heating is always on. The team decided to join the campaign to make their space accessible to anyone in need of free physical and social warmth.
Initially the bulk of warm welcome service users were found at the church cafe, which offered pension specials, attracting 20-30 elderly people per meal. Sometimes users walked out with giveaways (e.g. low-energy light bulbs) to help raise awareness about solutions to cut down on energy use at home.
With the changing landscape of government support, they noticed that the elderly weren’t the segment in most need, but families.
Kings Church received a Warm Welcome micro-grant this winter. They used the money to listen to the needs in their community, forge new partnerships and deliver creative solutions. They spent the grant on family activities and were able to increase their offer to welcome single parents.
They also used the funding to expand their base of beneficiaries. Given that their building was already serving Ukrainian refugees, they expanded their response by using Warm Welcome as a banner for their work in helping integrate refugee families into their community.
How It Happened: Helping Ukrainian Refugees
Paul Blakey, Operations & Development Manager, King's Church Halifax
“King's Church in Halifax, West Yorkshire, contacted the Halifax Ukrainian group as soon as we heard about the situation in Ukraine, as a way of supporting our local Ukraine community.
Initially the need was for additional collection points and storage for donated items that were to be sent to help with the situation in Ukraine. We made space in our Upper Hall and soon we had a constant stream of people from the local community coming in to drop off items which soon meant we ran out of storage space.
Two or three times a week wagons and vans would turn up with an army of volunteers to clear out the items and set off on the long journey from Halifax to Ukraine.
After a few weeks the needs changed as people from Ukraine started to arrive in Calderdale to be housed with host families. Ivan Kuzio, the coordinator of the Halifax Ukrainian group, asked if we could help with a meeting space where people could gather once a week for lunch.
Very soon around fifty Ukrainians were meeting at the King's Centre with new friendships formed, counselling and support available and an opportunity to learn English. Host families were able to meet one another sharing needs and ways of supporting our new families.
Practical help was offered with local dentists taking on Ukraine patients. Eureka!, the national children's museum based in Halifax, offered free family tickets and Calderdale Council came along to sort out issues and problems.
On the Orthodox Easter Sunday we hosted a Ukrainian breakfast with traditional food, which includes an abundance of horseradish, and an opportunity for King's Church to welcome our new friends.
In the summer, we became a venue for distributing around one hundred bicycles, meaning getting around became easier for adults and children were then out and about enjoying the borough's parks.
As the months progressed it was great to be part of the journey as Ukrainians started to receive job offers and English improved to a level of receiving ESOL qualifications.
Christmas saw us welcoming a newly formed choir with traditional Ukrainian carols and poetry. At a talent night, where the choir performed, Paul McMahon, one of the church leaders, said 'this community of people have truly won our hearts'.
King's Church Halifax offers a Warm Welcome to many in our community including the Warm Welcome space we run each week; hosting events which reach out including International Women's Day celebrations and Social Workers thank you days; those who attend our pensioners special meals twice a week in the cafe; and those of all ages and nationalities who part of our church community. The strangers we welcome into our 'home' often become friends.”
Warmth, Safety and Community
Kings Church Halifax is an example of a Warm Welcome space that naturally grew their offering with the support of the Warm Welcome campaign. Yet according to the Warm Welcome campaign’s research and estimates, the campaign has led to 29% of spaces opening and 39% of spaces offering different services than they would have otherwise offered. Over half of space users would have been at home with the heating off if they had not been at the Warm Welcome space. The top three reasons people visit Warm Welcome spaces is because they are warm, safe and allow opportunities to meet new people.
In a sample of 871 Warm Welcome spaces, 45 new social and recreational activities were started, 31 initiatives offering free food, 16 initiatives providing clothing and personal care, and 11 facilities providing support and services such as translation, financial advice and access to local council helpdesk.
Warm Welcome Microgrants: Empowering Spaces In Areas of High Deprivation
Serving behind the scenes for Warm Welcome
The Warm Welcome campaign has done much to warm hearts as well as bodies this winter so Stewardship feels very privileged to have been its fundraising and grant-making partner.
Money isn’t everything, but it was clear from the start of Warm Welcome that we would need resources to rise to the challenge and opportunity of serving the emerging movement of Warm Spaces across the UK.
When Warm Welcome was in its early stages, Stewardship worked closely with ChurchWorks to establish partnerships with philanthropists and trusts to share the vision and raise the support necessary to fund the core costs. Once the movement was up and running, we partnered with Warm Welcome on public donations, helping secure the opportunity to become the focus of the Daily Mirror's Christmas Appeal.
Understanding the funding needs of local spaces was a key challenge for us in the early part of this winter. Through a survey of Warm Welcome Spaces, we learned that the average fundraising target for local groups was around £2000. So to make our money go as far as possible, we decided to give out £1000 microgrants with minimal bureaucracy. We also decided to focus this support on Spaces in the areas of highest deprivation, where we felt the gap between need and the resources of local groups would be the greatest.
Through a combination of public donations, private philanthropy and trusts, Stewardship and Warm Welcome have now raised nearly £300,000 to give out through this Microgrant Fund. Over the last few weeks and months my colleagues have been hard at work contacting Spaces and offering them as much support as possible to receive this funding to boost their impact in their communities.
Stewardship is ideally positioned to connect givers with causes where the need is greatest; founded over a century ago, it has long experience of fundraising and today serves over 30,000 generous donors, giving more than £100 million each year to nearly 13,000 charities, churches and Christian workers. It is also a founding partner in The ChurchWorks Commission, a coalition of 15 major UK Christian denominations that partners with the Government, initially to coordinate a Covid recovery programme and more recently a response to the cost-of-living crisis, which has included the Warm Welcome initiative.
Here are a couple of stories of the impact of the Microgrant Fund which have filled us with pride and hope in the work of local Warm Welcome Spaces.
Stories from Warm Welcome spaces who’ve received microgrants:
Edge Ministries ran a free Santa’s Grotto welcoming over 280 people, with a free gift for every child, and free hot dogs and mince pies for everyone.
Find out more about Edge Ministry →
Maltby Salvation Army’s
Maltby Salvation Army created a lounge area at the back of the church to serve as a Warm Welcome space, emphasising hospitality where people can come in and feel safe and warm physically and socially. They serve soup, sausage rolls and hot drinks every session.
They've been relying on creativity and flexibility to respond to people's needs on a human level. When they noticed that moms and toddlers were using the warm space, they quickly adapted accordingly. During the football season one room screened matches while families with children on winter break used the lounge area to play and socialise.
The main impact this Warm Welcome space is having is in tacking isolation, building friendships, and helping people realise that they aren't alone. The Warm Welcome grant helped with the costs of setting up the lounge space and providing free drinks and food. Additionally, it covered ongoing energy costs to keep the space warm.
The Kings Church, Halifax
The Warm Welcome Space at Kings Church Halifax was established as a local response to the cost living crisis. The building, which has kitchen and cafe facilities, was open every day of the week and the heating was always on. The team decided to make the space accessible to anyone in need of free warmth and social interaction.
The cafe was offering pension specials attracting 20-30 people per meal. It was where the bulk of Warm Welcome service users were initially found. Sometimes people walk out with giveaways (e.g. low-energy light bulbs) to help raise awareness about solutions to cut down on energy use at home.
The Warm Welcome microgrant allowed the church to carry out a listening exercise asking the community about their needs and finding creative ways to respond under the banner of the Warm Welcome space. The grant was used to repurpose a space for families, develop family activities and run adverts targeting single parents. Additionally, they forged new partnerships and expanded their base of beneficiaries to include a group of Ukrainian refugees who were using the building for English lessons.
Find out more about King's Church →
"I cannot adequately express how blessed we are by this generous grant. It is our intention to continue with our Warm Welcome space for the foreseeable future as we are proving to be very popular with the residents and for some who are struggling with current food bills, we are a real blessing. This grant will go a long way to providing food and heat for quite a number of months. Thank you again."
- Member of New Life Church Leigh, one Warm Welcome partner that has received a microgrant.
“At Stewardship we are passionate about connecting our givers with our church and charity partners to provide support where the need is greatest. We have therefore been very encouraged by the generous response to the Warm Welcome Campaign. The cost-of-living crisis means the need in our communities remains acute so we will continue to do all that we can to distribute crucial funds to help churches and charities keep their warm spaces open.”
- Stewart McCulloch, CEO, Stewardship
Warm Spaces – A Quiet Revolution
Across the UK, through the depths of winter and the Cost of Living Crisis, a movement has been born. It’s a quintessentially British kind of movement, powered by an army of volunteers, endless cups of tea and ordinary conversations. As millions of people in the sixth richest country in the world have found themselves unable to heat their own homes, thousands upon thousands of designated ‘Warm Welcome Spaces’ have emerged. And together they are changing the social landscape of our country.
The Warm Welcome campaign began last summer when senior faith leaders met with former prime minister Gordon Brown to discuss the growing Cost of Living Crisis and the increasingly dire outlook for low income households. In what was almost a throwaway comment, Gordon Brown mentioned that he’d heard of plans for ‘train station waiting room-style heated spaces’ for those unable to pay their energy bills. The room went quiet as the impact of that mental image sunk in. Every person left the meeting determined that something better had to be created.
Through conversations in the following days and weeks the concept of a ‘Warm Welcome Space’ emerged – somewhere that was free to enter, safe, warm and welcoming. Instead of being prescriptive beyond these basic elements, we decided to trust that local groups knew best what people in their community might need. We build a website, held an online launch event, and then watched in awe as first hundreds and then thousands of groups of every shape and size signed up and got involved – churches, mosques, gurdwaras, libraries, schools, community cafes and many many more.
For a significant number of these organisations, Warm Welcome has provided a brand and a banner under which to grow and expand their existing activities – extending hours, running new sessions, reaching new parts of the community. For others it has been a catalyst to try something new – film nights, homework clubs, community meals. The collective impact of these Spaces has been enormous. One woman told the BBC that before she found her local Warm Welcome venue, the only way she could keep warm at home was by staying in bed all day. Spaces are described by many who use them as a ‘lifeline’. But as well as providing a place of refuge for the cold and hungry, Warm Welcome Spaces have been hubs of community, helping people make connections and build friendships. In doing so they are creating the longer-term social support networks that can sustain people all-year round. They are also often providing the space for intergenerational contact and connection that is increasingly hard to find elsewhere.
For many of the Warm Welcome Spaces, the experience has been transformational for their own organisation too. Libraries have reinvented themselves as community hubs, attracting families and young people like never before and demonstrating beyond doubt their immense value to the social fabric of their place. Many churches now have more people attending their Warm Welcome provision than coming along to their Sunday services, inspiring them to reimagine who they exist to serve and how.
The long-term prospects for Warm Welcome now are fascinating. As well as providing a unifying banner for Warm Spaces, the campaign has raised almost £300k to give out in £1000 microgrants targeted at Spaces in areas of highest deprivation. In doing this, it has created a unique vehicle for funders who want to invest in hyper-local leadership and resilience but at a significant scale. The Government’s promise to develop a strategy for community spaces and relationships as part of its Levelling Up programme surely can’t fail to focus on what could be done with this now 7000-strong network which is supporting hundreds of thousands of people each week. And imagine what a programme of work on energy efficiency for Warm Welcome buildings could do, creating huge environmental benefits on our national race to Net Zero whilst boosting the financial resilience of crucial local assets.
There are also the first signs of Warm Welcome providing a catalyst for systemic change. In Birmingham, Warm Welcome Spaces found a number of people were struggling with issues of damp and mould in their homes. So, they organised themselves to work with the Council, ensuring that all Spaces have access to a senior Council Director who can fast-track cases for a response. This kind of organising for change is creating a blueprint for other Spaces to work together to listen to and act on the issues facing local people, ensuring that Warm Welcome can go beyond just a short-term practical response to our deep systemic challenges.
The campaign will change gears at the end of this winter, signposting those who want to carry on running activities to other sources of support. But with the Cost of Living Crisis not showing any signs of abating, preparations will begin immediately for a Warm Welcome campaign that is bigger and better next Winter, nurturing a movement which feels like it is just getting started.
The outlook for Britain may be bleak in many ways, but Warm Welcome shows that we still have plenty to be hopeful about. When faced with crisis and despair, the community response to the Cost of Living Crisis has been nothing short of heroic. Now it’s up to the rest of society to follow where local people are leading.