The Army Welfare Service in Colchester has set up a ‘warm hub’ to provide a place for families to gather during cold winter afternoons, helping to reduce isolation and building a sense of belonging. We spoke to Michelle Dunn from AWS to find out more…

Where did the idea for the warm hub come from?

The idea came about in a few ways. I attended networking meetings where warm hubs were mentioned and had seen the idea from Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert.

I was also talking to families at my parent and toddler sessions about increased costs to bills over the winter. They were concerned about the impact this would have.

The warm hub was set up to give the community a warm, safe place to go, whilst helping to reduce the effect of the increased cost of living.

Where is it held?

It is held weekly in the Garrison Community Centre. Before the session I set out games, arts and crafts, a baby area, a role play area, cars and play mats.

What uptake have you had?

I was surprised and pleased with the uptake, on average over the course of the session, we had about 50 to 60 adults and children attend. The warm hub is open 14.30-16.30 one day a week during the winter during term time. I really notice the attendance increase after school, as many members of the community bring older children along.

How important do you think it is for families to have access to this?

I wasn’t sure what to expect and was surprised at the number of people coming along. I can signpost to further support from outside organisations which can offer financial information. We also discuss ways to cut back on spending. This provides a vital lifeline and is a means to share worries for some.

What feedback have you had?

We’ve had positive feedback both from the community and the Garrison. One family member said, “The warm hub helped me to gain information, reduced the isolation I felt as my husband was away and helped me feel like I belonged to the community.”

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