By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead


As winter looms, warm spaces are being set around the Bay to ensure people are able to stay warm.

It is a tragic fact that not everyone will be able to heat their homes this winter as fuel bills rocket out of the reach of many, and not even the Government grant will enable everyone to make ends meet.

Charities and voluntary organisations across Torbay have been warning about the impending crisis for months – that families and some of society’s most vulnerable individuals are facing making a choice between heating and eating.

Finance guru, Martin Lewis turned his attention to the issue back in July when he tweeted: “Can’t believe I’m writing this, but I wonder if this winter we’ll need ‘warm banks’, the equivalent of ‘food banks’ where people who can’t afford heating are invited to spend their days, at no cost, with heating (e.g. in libraries, public buildings, etc.)”

How right he was. We know only too well how much our foodbanks are needed in this area, and demand for those is already going through the roof as inflation sends food bills soaring. And the worst is still to come.

Torbay Council has recognised the seriousness of the situation and has put aside £75,000 to help community groups set up warm, welcoming and safe places that are free to use and will provide hot drinks for visitors.

Community groups are invited to bid for up to £3,500 to help with the extra costs of running the spaces. More than 20 have already been designated in church halls, community centres, libraries and coffee shops.

Their importance might not be so apparent whilst temperatures remain unseasonably in the teens, but the first cold snap will make them essential refuges for some – a place where they can go when their homes are cold to seek warmth and company.

A charter has been drawn up to ensure confidentiality and outlines what people can expect when they visit a warm space. The charter promises that:
· Visitors will be welcome, warm and all will be treated equally
· Warm spaces are safe places – venues will have safeguarding policies and follow hygiene rules
· It doesn’t matter why you visit a warm space, you won’t be judged, and no one will be told that you visited.

Services offered at the warm spaces vary from venue to venue, but they all have one thing in common – a warm welcome and a lack of judgment. The majority also offer warm drinks either free, cheaply or in exchange for a donation.

As COVID cases again begin to rise, precautions are being taken to help limit the spread and whilst masks remain optional, venues will be ensuring they do all they can with regards to ventilation and capacity

St Mary Magdalene Church in Union Street, Torbay for instance are opening on Mondays between 10 am and 12 noon and will have a Song Time with Bubbles Creative Craft for families at a cost of just £1.

All four libraries in the Bay, in Brixham, Churston, Paignton and Torquay, are designated warm spaces with Wi-fi, where everyone is welcome, regardless of membership. Check your local library for opening times. Riviera Life Church in Babbacombe Road, Torquay, have long been providing free tea, coffee, soup and pastries alongside their food and baby banks on a Thursday from 9.30am until 2pm.

The Help Hub and Community Café at Temperance Street in Torquay are now opening on Mondays, meaning that it is available every weekday from 10 am to 3pm.

A full list of all the warm spaces in Torbay is being constantly updated as we learn of more and is available on our website, via Google Maps – if you want to know more about the help available in your neighbourhood then your Community Builder is a good place to start.

Final words go to Martin Lewis: “Of course, warm spaces are far from a panacea, not everyone will be able to get to warm spaces, not everyone will want to, and people will still need to heat their homes sometimes. Yet I think they will turn out to be crucial extra help to get a decent number of vulnerable people through the winter.”

If you need help or would like to offer help, please call the Torbay Community Helpline on 01803 446022.