COMMUNITY-spirited Charitable Trusts across the UK have opened up their facilities as Warm Banks this Winter despite many facing their own financial troubles due to the cost of living crisis.
A recent survey by Community Leisure UK (CLUK) found that most Trusts across the UK are at risk of closing or reducing services due to increased energy prices, but that hasn’t stopped them from doing their bit for the community during the cold winter months.
In England, GLL, Sandwell Leisure Trust, BeActive Urmston, Rossendale Leisure Trust, Tadcaster Pool, Everybody Health and Leisure, Stocksbridge Community Leisure Centre, Abbeycroft Leisure, Oldham Community Leisure are all providing warm spaces for residents.
In Scotland, Fife Sports and Leisure Trust, OnFife, ANGUSalive, East Ayrshire Leisure, West Lothian Leisure, East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure and South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture are all offering ways for residents to stay warm this winter.
And in Wales, Aura Leisure and Libraries, Awen Cultural Trust, Aneurin Leisure Trust and Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust are all supporting the initiative.
In some cases the schemes are being delivered in partnership with local authority partners but in others the schemes are being funded by the Charitable Trusts themselves.
At GLL, the Warm Bank initiative is being rolled out across 50 leisure centres and will span the whole of the UK. It is supported by Age UK, with local collaborations taking place with community food banks, charities and Citizens Advice Bureaux.
Anyone living in the vicinity of a participating leisure centre will receive a warm welcome, comfortable seating, the opportunity to charge a phone or device, use the free WiFi or even have a hot shower.
Another CLUK member, Abbeycroft Leisure, has joined the Suffolk-wide initiative to offer free warm spaces to local residents.
The not-for-profit social enterprise is offering free drop-in sessions every day of the week with somewhere warm to sit and enjoy a free hot drink, read the paper, play some board games, chat with others and enjoy a free swim or hot shower.
In some cases, grants have been made available via local councils and Abbeycroft Leisure was supported by Babergh District Council through their Winter Warmth Support grant to provide the sessions at Hadleigh Pool and Leisure and Kingfisher Leisure Centre in Sudbury.
In October, Oldham Active (Oldham Community Leisure) launched its’‘Shower and Go” scheme to provide hot showers for people within the Oldham community who may be struggling to heat their homes and hot heat water.
Kirsty Cumming, CEO of Community Leisure UK, said: “Our members’ humanity and genuine care for the local community never ceases to amaze me.
“When you consider the vast majority of our members are struggling to pay their own bills due to the cost of living crisis, this is a truly heartwarming testament to the role Charitable Trusts play in supporting their communities.
“This is a lifeline for many people struggling to keep their own homes warm this winter.”
Gareth Kirk, GLL chair, added: “As a charitable social enterprise whose ethos is to give back to local communities, we knew we had to step up and do our bit to help those struggling to heat their homes this winter.
“Our facilities are at the heart of local communities and are ideally suited to serve as Warm Spaces. They are easily accessible, known to local residents and are natural places to socialize. Our staff will be on hand to offer a warm welcome to anyone, whether they are leisure centre members or not, who are in need of a place of respite during the coming months.
Stuart Lockwood, Oldham Community Leisure, CEO, said: “We support our community on a daily basis, and this is just an extension of our core values. “Times are tough for everyone, but it is local residents on the lowest incomes who are feeling the brunt of rising prices the most.”
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