Gateshead Council: Creating warm spaces this winter

Gateshead Council is establishing a network of Warm Spaces, where vulnerable residents can come together to stay warm and socialise.

Cost of living

Background

There is a cost of living crisis in the UK resulting in unprecedented pressures on people already in poverty and this winter, despite the support given by Government, thousands of people in Gateshead will be forced to make tough decisions about when and what they eat, what they can do in life, and when they can afford to heat their home. 

Gateshead wants to do more to help its residents, delivering upon its Thrive ambitions to ensure they:

  • put people and families at the heart of everything they do
  • tackle inequality so people have a fair chance
  • support their communities to support themselves and each other
  • work together and fight for a better future for Gateshead
  • invest in their economy to provide opportunities for employment, innovation and growth.

The initiative

In light of the pressures facing many residents, the Council is working with their local partners, building on the work they did during the pandemic, to create a network of Warm Spaces. These are places where people from across Gateshead can come together to stay warm, and perhaps enjoy a cup of tea and a biscuit.

The Council's intention is to create a directory of all the places available to their residents across the public, private, health and voluntary sectors and to ensure this information is clearly marketed so everyone who is feeling the cold knows where they can go to get warm, stay warm and enjoy a little company and some refreshments.

Organisations who want to create a new Warm Space can apply for a grant. Support will also be given, including training sessions, to ensure they are of sufficient quality. In addition applicants will need to sign the Warm Space Charter, so those who use the Warm Space know they will be entering a place which is safe, respectful and and non-judgmental.

The reason for Warm Spaces

From April 2022 Ofgem increased their price cap for default (standard variable tariffs) and prepayment meter tariffs by 54 per cent. This is expected to raise the bills of 22 million gas and electricity customers by an average of between £693 and £708 depending on how they pay. This is on top of the price increase that came in October 2021, which saw an average increase of £139 - £153. However, Ofgem reviews the price cap twice a year, in February and August, and implements changes in April and October. The price cap for October 2022 is estimated to add another 20 per cent.

This would see the average bill increase to around £2,300 a year for gas and electricity, with some families, such as those with disabilities running clinical machinery reaching as much as £3,000 per year.

The government’s position on support is evolving, with some measures already announced including a £150 council tax rebate, a £400 grant through the Energy Bill Support Scheme, £300 for pensioners, and extra £150 for those with disabilities and an expansion of the Household Support Fund. However, the reality is that for most families, this support is not enough to cover the price rises of food, fuel and other necessities. This means that although people will have an extra money to go towards their energy costs it may not make enough of a difference.

Sharing Warm Spaces

Many of the Council's partners across Gateshead were already provide this type of facility, so they were asked to consider registering these facilities and/or services so the Council could create a Warm Spaces directory and let their residents know how to access the Warm Spaces near them. The Council also suggested they explore enhancing these spaces further, including by considering applying for grants.

Warm Space Small Grant Programme

Grants were made available to organisations and community-led groups in Gateshead for the creation and improvement of Warm Spaces for local communities, funded by Gateshead Council and the DWP Household Support Grant. These ranged from £50 to £500. This could be spent on a variety of project costs including furniture, equipment costs and improvements to facilities

Those applying need to demonstrate a commitment to the Thrive Pledge; promotion of equality, inclusivity, and diversity; value for money; demonstrable ability to connect with local people; and for their facility to be added to the Warm Space register.

What to expect if offering a Warm Space

Those offering a Warm Space need to sign up to the Warm Space Charter, developed in collaboration with the Gateshead Poverty Truth Commission. The Charter is intended to help local people who want to use the Warm Spaces to know what to expect when they step across the threshold of a Warm Space building; a guarantee of respect, dignity and warmth.

Training modules were also made are available, including around what to consider in preparing a venue to receive visitors, the importance of confidentiality, understanding the cost of living crisis, and how to signposting for energy advice to include charitable grants. In addition the Council offered branding guidance and a social media toolkit to promote the Warm Space.

All participants are expected to adhere to their own safeguarding policies and ensure that all staff and volunteers are briefed on these procedures.

Warm Spaces Charter

  • You’ll get a warm welcome as well as Warm Space. Every time you come to a Warm Space you’ll be given a warm welcome from the staff and volunteers there.
  • Everyone is treated equally, with dignity and respect Everyone has a right to be warm, so everyone in a Warm Space treats people, and is treated by people, with dignity and respect.
  • Your Warm Space will be a safe space Your Warm Space will stick to the safeguarding policies that it always uses, and it will stick to food hygiene rules too.
  • We will not tell anyone about you needing a Warm Space If you want to share the reasons you need a Warm Space, someone will listen, but they won’t tell anyone else unless you give them permission, or they must because of their safeguarding policies.
  • It doesn’t matter why you need a Warm Space. Every Warm Space is a non-judgemental space, whatever the reason you have for needing to come in.

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