Warm Hubs and Mobile Warm Hub

As social isolation has increased due to Covid-19, WRCC believes it’s more important than ever to help vulnerable people. Particularly those living in villages and rural areas, many of whom were struggling even before the pandemic. Reasons for this include limited social activities, rural transport cutbacks, insufficient affordable housing, lack of local employment and, increasingly, fuel poverty. 

People of all ages and backgrounds are at risk. Such as elderly people who go for days without speaking to another person.  Those who feel the cold but can’t afford to heat the whole home and so live in one room. A young parent who has to rely on a limited bus service for the school run or to go shopping. Someone who is disabled and can’t find suitable local work so spend most of their time at home. For many people, feeling alone can lead to depression, anxiety and mental and physical health problems. 

So we’ve set up Warm Hubs and our Mobile Warm Hub minibus service to help communities target social isolation and the related risks.

We’re encouraging people in Warwickshire and Solihull to come together and reconnect with their community – and particularly to support those who are most vulnerable.

This important initiative is supported by Cadent Gas, the UK’s largest gas distribution network. Together, we can help to advise people on energy efficient practices and fuel affordability. We can also help to support community buildings and the volunteers who run local activities.

WRCC collaborates with other organisations such as environmental charity Act on Energy, Warwickshire CAVA, Warwickshire Rural Hub, mutual aid groups and other support groups.  We’re keen to provide information to local residents and help improve their wellbeing.  We also partner with VASA to provide the Mobile Warm Hub service (see below).

What is a Warm Hub? 

A Warm Hub, accredited by WRCC, is an affordable, inclusive activity run for the community by the community, in a warm and safe space like a village hall or community centre. Each community will have its own specific needs but here are a few examples:

  • Village hall committees setting up breakfast or lunch clubs 
  • Community groups starting a dementia cafe with additional support for carers
  • “Repair shop” groups teaching teenagers and young adults practical repair skills and encouraging recycling 
  • Slow cooking courses/clubs showing people how to prepare healthy meals on a budget (see below)

As well as helping to reduce social isolation, Warm Hubs offer other benefits. Village hall management committees can get advice and support on energy efficiency and volunteer training. They may also be able to access funding for  relevant facilities, eg kitchen equipment, insulation and heating. Group organisers can promote accredited activities to reassure attendees they’re run in supportive, well managed venues.

And Warm Hubs can put residents in touch with a range of community support services, as well as access to free advice on fuel affordability and tips on keeping warm and safe at home.

Warwickshire’s first Warm Hub was launched at Shotteswell Village Hall and celebrated its first anniversary on 12th December 2021. This well supported inclusive village breakfast event also welcomed Father Christmas and his Mobile Grotto, and local MP Jeremy Wright.

Ben Zammett, Chair of Shotteswell Village Hall Committee, said: “It’s been a challenging  year for everyone but our monthly Sunday Breakfast Club is going strong.  We’re proud of what we’ve achieved so far and plan to support our village in other ways by working closely with our Warm Hub partners next year.”

WRCC has also worked with other village halls and community groups who were interested in becoming Warm Hubs, as buildings started to reopen during 2021. We launched our next Warm Hub at The Crawford Memorial Hall in Bidford on 15th September 2021. This was as a direct result of the previous weekly coffee and chat social mornings run by our Mobile Warm Hub (see below).  The event was also supported by Wales & West Utilities in collaboration with Cadent.

Photo: Charlie Budd, The Tall Photographer

Parish Council Chair Bill Fleming said: “The minibus visits kept Bidford people in touch with each other. Especially those who wouldn’t otherwise have had anywhere to go, and no one to chat to face to face.  It’s made such a difference to the local community and the Parish Council is delighted to be carrying on the great work that the Mobile Warm Hub started”.

The weekly event is always well attended and is greatly enjoyed by local residents. WRCC has commissioned a short video showing the difference that Warm Hubs and the Mobile Warm Hub can make to communities such as Bidford, and will be sharing this  shortly.

WRCC also partnered with The Kenilworth Centre and Compassionate Kenilworth (formerly the Covid-19 Kenilworth Support Group) in November/December 2021 to run an inclusive pilot slow cooking course for local residents.

This included providing free slow cookers and a pack of energy saving information plus carbon dioxide monitor. People also welcomed the chance to meet others in a welcoming, safe environment and the overwhelming response was “More please!” The feedback was so positive that we are now looking to develop more of these courses here and elsewhere in the county.

We look forward to launching more Warm Hubs in early 2022 (timing being subject to any future Covid restrictions) in Meriden, Arley, Ansley and Kenilworth among other locations.

Mobile Warm Hub

Our Mobile Warm Hub service is run by WRCC and VASA working together, supported by Cadent. Our converted community minibus – nicknamed our “Chattybus” – took to the road in May 2021. Since then we’ve run a Monday to Friday service visiting local communities on a weekly or fortnightly basis. The service is supported by our friendly volunteer drivers.

We provide a welcoming, safe outdoor space for residents to meet up and enjoy a friendly chat. Our free coffee/tea and biscuits are also much appreciated! As we move into winter, we’re currently running events indoors again thanks to our partner venues. We want to ensure people keep warm and safe in the colder weather.

Our inclusive, welcoming coffee and chat events are popular with people of all ages. For some it’s become a social lifeline after many months of being alone at home. Our volunteers also look forward to meeting up with our “regulars” as well as getting to speak to new faces. We’ve had several dogwalkers and a couple of horse riders attend. Events have even featured performances by a community band and by a professional magician!

 

Different communities have different needs and our Mobile Warm Hub can pay weekly visits, monthly visits or make occasional stops as required. We also work with local volunteers to help set up permanent Warm Hubs in village halls and community spaces. And we can offer somewhere  for residents to meet in more remote areas with no local facilities.

The Mobile Warm Hub carries leaflets and materials about energy saving and home safety matters. We also distribute information about other community support services and collaborate with organisations across the county,  such as Act on Energy and the Mobile Libraries Service. Cadent and other project supporters may also join us occasionally to provide helpful community information and advice.

Current visits

Due to the current situation regarding Covid, our Mobile Warm Hub events are on hold until mid January and we will update our schedule nearer this date. In the meantime, however, we are  continuing to support Warwick District Food Bank on Fridays, when our minibus carries out a range of collections and deliveries in Kenilworth and Leamington.

Watch this space and our social media channels for updates and photos from our visits – we could be coming to your area in 2022!

 

Next steps

Have you got a great idea for a Warm Hub, or would you like to book a Mobile Warm Hub visit to your village? Or would you just like to find out more about what we’re doing and how your community can benefit? Get in touch with us now to find out more.

For information about Warm Hubs, please email jackieh@wrccrural.org.uk

For information about our Mobile Warm Hub, please call 01789 777986 (Mon – Thurs, 9.00am – 4.00pm; Fri 9.00am – 1.00pm, answerphone service available outside these times) or email sue@vasa.org.uk.

We look forward to hearing from you!