A network of Warm Rooms has opened across East Suffolk to provide a safe, welcoming space for anyone struggling with heating costs during the colder winter months.
Locations include everything from community halls and churches to leisure centres and pubs, each providing a warm space, hot drinks and an opportunity to connect with other members of the local community.
The network of 30 Warm Rooms has been part-funded by the UK Government (through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund), with more than £70,000 set aside from East Suffolk Council’s wider Ease the Squeeze programme of advice and support around the rising cost of living.
A number of additional rooms are also being funded from Community Partnership (CP) budgets, with grants provided to cover heating, lighting and basic refreshments for a minimum of three warm rooms in each CP area.
Several venues are planning free, independently funded activities, ranging from books and games to film showings, allowing people to not only stay warm but also connect with others in the community, reducing isolation and loneliness.
Help and advice will be available on subjects such as reducing energy costs and managing finances, while East Suffolk Council will also be working with the Rural Coffee Caravan to identify and support Warm Spaces in more rural communities.
Cllr Letitia Smith, East Suffolk Council cabinet member for Communities, Leisure and Tourism, said:
“We are acutely aware of the financial pressures currently faced by individuals and families in our communities, so I’m pleased that we are able to launch this network of welcoming spaces and help alleviate some of that burden.
“Our officers have been working hard towards a target of providing at least one small and two large Warm Rooms in each Community Partnership area, operating at least twice a week for 22 weeks.
“We will be reaching out to businesses to donate Warm Rooms, or to donate money to fund Warm Rooms to add to the network.
“We are very grateful for the show of support we’ve received so far – and it means we’re able to 6,366 hours of warmth over winter.”
Meanwhile, a new grant funding scheme has been made available for voluntary organisations and community groups to help people struggling to meet the cost of living.
The East Suffolk Cost of Living Community Grant Fund has been set up with funding via the Suffolk Collaborative Communities Board, from the Suffolk Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF).
Pictured are (left to right) Lowestoft Rising manager Phil Aves, Rev Damon Rogers, East Suffolk Communities Support Officer Louise Thomas, Lowestoft and Northern Parishes Community Partnership Vice Chairman Danny Steel, Debbie Blowers, of Bact Community Transport, Lowestoft and Northern Parishes Community Partnership Chairman Paul Ashdown, and East Suffolk Council cabinet member for Communities, Leisure and Tourism, Cllr Letitia Smith. With refreshments donated by Balfour Beatty.St Andrews Community Church was among 10 Warm Rooms in Lowestoft visited by representatives of East Suffolk Community Partnerships on Wednesday 30 November.
The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a central pillar of the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills. For more information, click here.