Andrew Rainsford

Nov 9, 2022, 2:00 PM

Warm Hubs; Warm Banks; Warm Welcome – is it the right thing for you?

By Andrew Rainsford

One of the exciting things about the freelance world is the scope to challenge orthodoxy. Within the voluntary sector there is an embedded culture of “we must do something” and, by and large, this is good. But there are nuances in the mindset of beneficiaries that need to be recognised and accommodated with creative solutions.

Major changes in UK (and wider) society have triggered a lot of “do something” thinking and actions. However, doing “something” may not necessarily be the right thing. Warm Hubs, Warm Banks and Warm Welcome may not be the right thing – for you.

The overall concept is good. Cost of living issues can force a choice between heating and eating. That is known and something has to be done about it. Food banks have their part to play, as do community fridges and community pantries. They address the “eating” element. The “heating” issue, though, is actually broader than just cost. It is about uncertainty.

How does anyone know how much it costs to run their heating, particularly on a cold day in an energy leaking house? If you don’t know and are worried, the natural reaction is to err on the side of caution and then become cold. That is the “something” that needs to be addressed.

By setting up a dedicated warm bank – regardless of activities – you are inviting people to admit that they can’t cope. That may be the case but it is a difficult thing for anyone to concede. The well intentioned message may be heard as “if you can’t manage your money, come and sit with us and we'll give you a cup of tea and no money”.

Perhaps this is harsh. My thought process is informed by working in a community where it was not good to be seen talking to the police. You were seen as a “grass”. We opened our community centre, installed various activities and encouraged the PCSO to drop in for coffee whenever they wanted. People came to the hairdressers and left a message for the PCSO; people came to a salsa class and there was the PCSO; people came to… etc etc. The PCSO did more than drink coffee during the day and we were certainly not a quasi police post. But the “something” and the PCSO model worked.

Earlier in November, a pub that I used to visit closed. Pubs are not immune from energy costs. Pubs also have heating and, invariably, there is someone there during the morning to clean, deal with barrels etc. The heating is on but the doors are locked. A well known pub chain has offered tea/coffee for £1, with free refills, for years. Could that model be adopted in your local pub? And could your operation assist by providing support for the tea and coffee?

All of a sudden the “warm hub” becomes a “social hub”, with people meeting in an established social environment for tea and coffee. Your contribution ensures that the pub does not lose financially and you save by making use of a space that’s already being heated. Your “something” complements an existing concern without competing. Could this be a win for all?

There will be some who find pubs difficult, for religious or addiction reasons. One means of addressing that could be to ensure that no alcohol is served before an agreed time (and that could be a condition of your support). There are other options too, of course. In many communities there is a library – not as many as there were – and that could be another space for your organisation to facilitate your “something”.

Thinking outside of the box does mean that we need to know where the box is – and, in these times, we need to keep the box warm. Facilitating, and not doing, something could be a way forward.


Andrew Rainsford

Andrew Rainsford is a specialist consultant in the Christian sector, helping churches with matters concerning buildings, capacity building, project development, income generation and community enterprise. He has 28 years experience in funding and third sector management and now engages with projects that will make a difference to the community.

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