Over 200 warm banks in operation as fuel poverty rises ahead of winter

STV News asked each local authority if warm banks were being set up to support vulnerable people this winter.

Over 200 warm banks in operation across Scotland as fuel poverty rises ahead of winter iStock

Over 200 ‘warm banks’ run by local councils or community groups are currently in operation across Scotland.

Libraries, cafes and community centres are among the public spaces being used to host the spaces across Scotland this winter, as vulnerable people struggle with the rising costs of living.

The community-led responses are providing free hot drinks and soup while others offer a cosy environment to sit, interact with others and access the internet.

STV News asked each of the 32 local authorities in Scotland whether warm banks had been set up. Read what they said here.

With over 200 warm banks confirmed across local authorities, the number of warm banks in Scotland is now almost as high as the number of food banks.

A number of councils who do not have warm banks in place said that plans for future services were currently being considered.

Local authorities have set aside funding for these initiatives or are providing public buildings as locations.

Of the local authorities who responded to STV News with figures, North Lanarkshire had the highest provision for the service with 46 council community facilities currently being used and partnerships with 80 local community organisations.

It comes as figures reveal the scale of the cost of living crisis facing the most vulnerable people in communities ahead of winter.

A study from the University of York previously revealed that Scotland could have the second highest percentage (72.8%) of households in the UK falling into fuel poverty in January 2023.

Further research conducted by Age Scotland showed that four in ten (42%) of over 50s were struggling with fuel poverty across the country.

However, while warm banks, or warm spaces, are being welcomed by councillors and campaigners as a vital means of ensuring the most vulnerable do not go cold this winter, poverty charities have warned that the resources must not become as entrenched or normalised as food banks.

Leading anti-poverty organisation The Poverty Alliance recently warned against the repetition of “past mistakes” in allowing community-led responses to replace government action.

The organisation said: “While a compassionate response to an emergency situation may include dignified and attractive warm places hosted within communities these cannot meet our aspirations to protect and respect our human rights and to ensure that people are treated with dignity at all times.

“It is important to ensure that we do not repeat past mistakes where community responses to income crises become hardwired into the state’s response to poverty.

“The focus and responsibility of government should be ensuring people have enough money to keep their own homes warm. A cash first approach is the best way to do this, by investing in the benefits system.

“Our focus should include longer term issues, climate justice and distribution of wealth and power in our society.

“There remains a need for sustainable funding to organisations that support people through a perfect storm of rising costs, rocketing demand on services and people, all with reduced donations and funding.”

Councils have published information on where these services can be accessed with some local authorities saying plans are still in development for the coming months.

The Scottish Government’s social justice secretary Shona Robison said: “We are painfully aware of the hardship people are facing right now which is why the Scottish Government is doing all it can to support households in need.

“It is shocking that there is a need for warm spaces to be provided by local authorities due to the cost of living crisis and the economic shocks caused by the UK Government. We will continue to urge the UK Government to use the powers they have, particularly over the energy market to address spiralling energy costs, and soaring inflation.

“Whilst the majority of powers to address the current crisis are reserved, the Scottish Government has allocated almost £3 billion this financial year that will help households face the increased cost of living. This includes the Scottish Child Payment, that will rise to £25 per eligible child per week from 14 November and doubling the Fuel Insecurity Fund, which helps households that are at risk of severely rationing their energy use or self-disconnecting entirely, to £20m.”

Read the STV News breakdown of warm banks and support from each local authority here.

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