What with rising energy prices, as we slip into winter, I’ve received an announcement from B&NES detailing plans to create a network of Warm – and welcoming – Spaces within the district.
They are part of a proposal that will also detail ways in which people in need can access a wide range of organisations and services to help with the cost of living crisis.
The council is setting out a ‘Warm Welcome’ package for its libraries and inviting local organisations to help establish an online map of places that can help households struggling to meet the costs of energy to heat their homes.
As part of its response to the cost of living crisis and the huge increase in energy bills, the ‘Warm Welcome’ package will see council libraries offer information and signposting to other organisations to meet need. Changes to seating and the development of ‘Hublets’ – tablets for use in the library to access all council services – will ensure libraries are ‘Warm Welcome’-ready.
The council is also inviting local organisations to identify additional spaces that can provide warmth and welcome over the coming months. From today (October 7) by completing a simple online form, organisations will be able to register for an online directory and map of warm spaces in our area. The link can be found here
The online form will record information such as opening hours, available facilities and accessibility. Warm spaces will be identified on a map on the council’s website so people can see their nearest and most suitable warm space, alongside information about each space.
Organisations taking part will be asked to sign up to the Bath and North East Somerset Warm Spaces Charter, to ensure people using the space receive a warm welcome with respect and dignity.
The warm spaces initiative is being supported by the council and its partners in the Community Wellbeing Hub. The Community Wellbeing Hub has responded to the cost of living crisis by stepping up its help with money matters, bills, benefits, energy costs, food, housing, mental health support, jobs and skills, support for carers and other services.
The Community Wellbeing Hub provides a single telephone number 0300 247 0050 to access support from key local agencies, including Citizens Advice, Age UK and Bath Mind.
Councillor Kevin Guy, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “The choice between heating and eating is I am afraid a very real one for many in our community. We have many local organisations asking how they can contribute their venues to helping people keep warm this winter and this excellent initiative allows people to be part of a network that is designed to make a real difference to people’s lives over the coming months as energy costs bite. My thanks go to everyone taking part.”
Councillor Dine Romero, cabinet member for Children and Young People, and Communities, added: “Libraries have always been a safe, warm and free space for everyone, with free wi-fi, books, computers and study areas. Our Warm Welcome package will ensure as many people as possible know about our library offer including the very wide range of events and clubs which take place in our libraries. We hope that our Warm Welcome package, when combined with other warm spaces across our area, will form a supportive network that as many people as people will benefit from over the coming months.”
The council’s Library and Information Services in Keynsham and Midsomer Norton provide access to a wide range of council and other services, as does its Housing, Welfare and Advice Services at 3- 4 Manvers Street in Bath.
The warm spaces initiative and the Community Wellbeing Hub form part of a comprehensive local response to the cost of living crisis which also includes the Live Well B&NES Money Matters web pages containing details of a wide range of organisations and services providing support to help people manage their money. Live Well B&NES also provides a wealth of information, signposting and resources for families, adults needing care or support and SEND families. The council’s cost of living crisis web pages also contain information on:
- how to request help to pay your water or energy bills
- discretionary housing payment eligibility and Council Tax support
- eligibility for benefits including a free benefits calculator
- the Welfare Support Scheme, which provides B&NES residents with short-term, emergency help with living costs
- debt advice
- childcare costs
- help with dental and prescription costs
- how to apply for grants for insulation or low carbon heating systems to reduce energy costs
Some residents who are eligible for the Council Tax Energy Rebate still haven’t applied for their one-off £150 payment to help with fuel bills. You can find out more and apply on the council’s website. If you don’t qualify for the Council Tax Energy Rebate Scheme but are struggling to pay your energy bills you may be able to apply for a discretionary grant. There’s more information on the website and if you qualify you can apply online. Paper application forms are also available from the council’s One Stop Shops or you can call the Benefits Team on 01225 477777 and select option 4.
In exceptional circumstances the council may be able to offer a Discretionary payment to residents who have already received their Council Tax Energy Rebate. To apply contact email@example.com or call 01225 477277.
Meanwhile, Bath Abbey, who set up a working party to look into how they might help, say they are still ‘on the case’ and formulating what the church could offer and when.