Cost of living crisis: More than 100 ‘warm spaces’ launched across Stockport ahead of the winter months

The authorities have admitted it is going to be a challenging few months with the cost of living crisis.

More than 100 ‘warm spaces’ have been launched across Stockport to help people get through the ‘challenging and difficult’’ winter ahead.

Venues ranging from libraries to coffee shops and community centres will be welcoming people over the next five months, offering comfortable places where people can grab a brew, have a chat and maybe take part in a new activity.

The initiative is an ‘emergency response’ to the cost of living crisis that has left many worrying they will be left choosing between heating and eating – despite the government capping the amount people can be charged per unit of gas or electricity.

How many warm spaces are there in Stockport and what has been said about them opening?

There are 122 warm spaces in Stockport – 75 of which have received council funding of up to £1,000 – with at least one venue in every area of the borough.

Council leader Mark Hunter told a launch event at the Upper Room Cafe, in Cheadle, it was vital to support the most vulnerable over the winter -and praised the community for responding ‘quickly to this challenging situation’.

“What we share at the council is a determination to do what we can to try and assist people through what are very definitely going to be challenging and difficult times, especially as we go into the winter period and all that brings with it,” he said.

Stockport Council leader Coun Mark Hunter
Stockport Council leader Coun Mark Hunter
Stockport Council leader Coun Mark Hunter

“It’s all part of our response to the cost of living crisis for individuals and families. We know there are going to be very many challenges over the next few months and people are genuinely struggling to make ends meet.

What is on offer will vary from venue to venue, with some offering free food and drink and access to wifi. Other groups will put on activities – ranging from arts and crafts to film showings – as well as services such as those offering financial help. But Coun Hunter said there would be no pressure to partake or sign-up to anything.

“These are places where folk are invited to drop in and relax – there’s no obligation to buy anything or join anything or anything like that,” he said. “It’s just a casual drop-in where people can at least be warm and hopefully enjoy the company and socialise as well.”

What did The Upper Room Cafe say about opening a warm space?

Host venue The Upper Room Cafe – which is run by St Mary’s Church – will also operate as a ‘warm space’ at least until the end of March. Reverend Rob Munro said the church had long had a commitment to providing a community space, so warm spaces ‘fit well’ into its overall mission.

There’s a real heart to see support in our community, the real challenge is to get it to the place it’s most needed,” he said.

He also told the event that there would be no ‘hard border’ between the cafe – which opens six days a week – and the ‘warm space’ area. “We are hoping all those facilities will be available to people out of this space and they will be able to come and feel safe,” he said.

“The interface isn’t ‘oh, well, you need help’, this is just community being community. We want a soft border between somebody who comes into the cafe just to buy something and somebody who actually just needs a bit of company and space for free.

“I think that’s important so that, when it gets colder, it feels like a natural place. I think that’s what we hope for here and other groups that want to use the space and being a space that can host activities is one of the key ways of making those connections.”

What else has been said about the launch of the warm banks?

The event also heard from Anna Rogers, coordinator of Friendly Fridays, a ‘multi-generational’ group held at Stockport’s Rose Walker Centre and Mike Rodgers, of Webb Lane Community Allotments.

And John Kenny, of Brinnington Big Local Community Hub, told the gathering how the established centre was now making an impact as a ‘warm space’.

“There’s one old lady that came from Bramhall, it was the first time she had been out for two years and I think it has helped her mental health so much being able to interact with people,” he said. The hub has already had to create more room to meet demand and will be inviting in a local gardening group a film group and a team offering financial advice. Mr Kenny added: “It’s a work in progress, we will listen to people’s ideas, it’s about learning what people want.”

He said there was also a possibility of the offer extending beyond the end of March next year. “Although it’s a warm space it could carry on into the future as a social hub,” he added.