Over 7,000 churches and organisations set up Warm Welcome spaces for those in their local communities struggling to pay their energy bills this past winter. The impact had was invaluable, with many churches going far beyond simply providing a warm space for people to visit, but also providing visitors with other much needed services and facilities. However, this is not the long-term solution to a deeply rooted problem – the government and churches must work together to create lasting change.

At the beginning of the current cost of living crisis, the ChurchWorks commission recognised the need for a collective response from churches to the crisis. Conversations were held between the different organisations and denominations that make up the commission (including the Evangelical Alliance) about how best to use our resources to meet immediate needs. It was out of these conversations that the Warm Welcome campaign was born. 

The mission of Warm Welcome was simple: to support organisations to open their doors and provide a warm welcome for those struggling to heat their homes during the winter. Over 7,000 local groups, primarily churches, signed up. Over 200 of these churches were members of the Evangelical Alliance. In total, 2,400,000 visits were made to Warm Welcome spaces, by those in need, with a total of 550,000 visitors across the country. 


More than a warm space

The initial reason for setting up Warm Welcome hubs’ was to give people a place to keep warm during the winter months, which proved to be effective. A study conducted with guests that visited warm welcome spaces found that many of the people using the spaces spent less time worrying about energy prices than they had before, and less people were regularly skipping meals. 

While warmth remained the main reason that people made use of the spaces, there were other key contributing factors. The study found that other key reasons people gave for visiting were that it was a safe space; there was an opportunity to meet new people; and people could connect with others they already knew there.

These churches were able to use their resources to provide further services and facilities, some of which included: free food and drink, crafts and games, signposting to information and advice services, computer and Wi-Fi access, spiritual support, children’s activities, and counselling. 

Warm Welcome spaces have helped to combat loneliness – an epidemic that exists across our country, and that churches are well placed to help tackle. Sixty percent of respondents to the study said that since attending a Warm Welcome space, they never or rarely feel lonely. 

Only a temporary solution

It is encouraging that churches want to continue to support those in need in their community, with 78% of surveyed organisations and churches saying they would be willing to be involved in the Warm Welcome campaign again next winter. We are really encouraged to have been part of this campaign and to have helped churches make a difference in the lives of individuals from their local community.

However, we also hope to see the need for Warm Welcome spaces come to an end in the near future. We want to see the government develop policies that support people while costs of living are high, so that they are able to heat their homes and afford three meals a day. At an event we hosted alongside Christians Against Poverty in parliament in November, we called on policymakers to do just that – to work with the church to create better policies that help people out of poverty, and not to become solely reliant on the church’s ability and willingness to meet immediate need. 

Going forward, we will continue to work with ChurchWorks and call for the government to put those most in need at the heart of their policies. The church and government can be allies in ending poverty, and we will continue to work to build relationships to make this a reality.

To read more stories of what the church across the UK has been doing to support their communities through the cost of living crisis, take a look at our Stories of Hope: Cost of living resource.