Warm Hubs were originally created by Community Action Northumberland (CAN) in 2015 as places within the local community where people can be assured of finding a safe, warm and friendly environment in which to enjoy refreshments, social activity, advice and the company of other people. Funding for the scheme was provided by Northern Gas Networks (NGN).
Sustainable and long-term
However Warm Hubs are much more than a warm space. They are warm, resilient, sustainable, energy efficient buildings/emergency centres often using renewable technology. The Warm Hub volunteers are fully trained in skills such as first aid, food safety, energy advice and dementia awareness. Finally, every Warm Hub is tailored to meet the needs of its local community, including identifying any gaps in support.
During the last year, CAN was inundated with enquiries from charities and local authorities wanting to set up a Warm Hubs scheme in their own areas as the energy crisis hit. Warm Hubs is trademarked, so to help address the need and to share good practice, CAN created the Warm Hubs toolkit at www.warmhubs.com thanks to support from Northern Gas Networks.
The website describes how to set up and run a Warm Hub scheme, aimed at support agencies across the UK such as local authorities and rural charities. It provides training via a free toolkit of guidance to ensure the Warm Hubs they’ll be supporting are meeting the Warm Hub principles.
Toolkit built on eight years of experience
Warm Hubs were first set up in Northumberland eight years ago by CAN to provide a network of warm, energy-efficient community venues across the county. Hubs are run by volunteers who give energy support and advice to those attending. The Hubs themselves are accessible venues, hosting a programme of inclusive events, from coffee mornings to lunch clubs, which are much needed by the community.
There are now 42 Hubs across rural Northumberland used by thousands of people each week. The scheme has won various awards and been highlighted as good practice by Ofgem and the Prince’s Countryside Fund.
Different to a warm space
Christine Nicholls is organisational lead in energy equality at CAN and spoke of why Warm Hubs were originally created and the difference between Warm Hubs and Warm Spaces:
“The cost-of-living-crisis has been dominating the news, but the issue of fuel poverty has always been there. Our Warm Hubs project started as a way to address this in rural areas.
Warm spaces have popped up across the country this winter as a temporary solution over the cold months. Our project helps to make permanent changes to buildings and the way they are used by their community in the long term.
Warm Hubs are warm, safe places where you can expect an inclusive and friendly welcome. We’d love to see more of them across the country and are delighted to share the expertise built up over the past eight years to help others.”
Eileen Brown, Customer Services Director at NGN added:
“The Warm Hubs initiative is a fantastic addition to the suite of help and support available to the many hundreds of people struggling to heat their homes. We’re committed to doing everything we can to look after our most vulnerable customers and are delighted to be continuing our partnership with CAN.”
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