Buckinghamshire’s Welcoming Spaces give a warm welcome to all

As the weather turns colder and the days get shorter, Buckinghamshire Council is reminding people that Welcoming Spaces across the county continue to offer a friendly and free place where people can go to stay warm and well this winter.

Last winter, the council opened up all of its libraries and community libraries as Welcoming Spaces. The initiative forms part of the council's Helping Hand programme of support for residents impacted by cost of living pressures. The idea behind Welcoming Spaces is to provide warm, free, safe, and supportive places that any resident can visit at any time of year. They allow people to keep warm, save money on heating and access free support, advice and Wi-Fi, as well as meet new people, find local groups and activities to participate in and look after their physical and mental health.

Buckinghamshire libraries continue to welcome anyone who wants to use them as a Welcoming Space.

Clive Harriss, Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture & Leisure said: “Libraries are the perfect place for people to come to if they are in need of some warmth and company. Cost of living pressures are still having an impact on residents and if you are worried about putting your heating on at home, please remember, you can come to one of our Welcoming Spaces. Not only can you relax in comfort, anyone seeking a bit of company can meet with others and our staff are on hand with information and advice on a range of topics. The initiative worked so well last year that we are keen to ensure that everyone knows they are once again open to all.”

Several other local community organisations have created their own Welcoming Spaces in church halls and community centres, providing warm and friendly, social spaces for people to go. Find out more about Buckinghamshire’s Welcoming Spaces on the website: buckinghamshire.gov.uk/welcoming-spaces

For community groups or organisations that want to offer a Welcoming Space, a toolkit is available to help register and promote your space for free on the Bucks Online Directory. Welcoming Spaces are a great way to involve people in other activities that support their wellbeing and sense of connectedness to their local community. Spaces that provide activities such as quiz or games nights, board games, puzzles, film screenings or a 'knit and natter’ are simple ways to engage people and enable them to make connections with others.

The council is also working with local voluntary and community organisations to distribute free Warm Packs, including practical items such as a blanket and warm socks, to particularly vulnerable residents. The council has purchased a limited number of these packs using the Household Support Fund, provided by the Department for Work & Pensions, for local partners to provide to people who need them.

Additionally, the council is asking people to look out for older or more vulnerable neighbours. Arif Hussain, Cabinet Member for Communities explained: “We are asking people to be a good neighbour and keep an eye on them, especially older people or those who live on their own. Just a quick knock on their door to see if they are okay, offering to clear their drive of snow or ice or checking if they need any groceries from the shop, small gestures like this can make all the difference to a vulnerable person.”

Arif added: “Winter is a wonderful season but it can also be more likely that problems can occur, particularly due to the weather. The good news is, there are lots of simple but practical things we can do to prepare ourselves for winter. From making sure your car is equipped to cope during a snowy or icy period to checking that you are well stocked with any medications or provisions you may need should a spell of bad weather make it more difficult to go out, it all helps to be prepared.”

For more information on how to ensure you are winter ready visit the council website: www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/winter-ready

If you are struggling to heat your home or know someone else who is, contact the Helping Hand team: buckinghamshire.gov.uk/helping-hand or call 01296 531151.