01 November 2022, The Tablet

Catholic parishes join campaign to provide warm spaces this winter

Catholic parishes join campaign to provide warm spaces this winter

Catholic parishes have joined more than 2,500 churches, libraries and other organisations providing warm spaces for those without heating this winter. The “Warm Welcome” campaign, set up by a coalition including the ecumenical group Churchworks, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Community Managed Libraries Network and a range of other charitable groups, has been created to provide free, warm, welcoming and safe spaces this winter.

With more than two million households not keeping up with energy bills as a result of escalating prices, local authorities, charities and other third sector organisations have launched initiatives to provide heating to those in need.

A number of Catholic groups have signed onto the campaign, either individually, such as Caritas Social Action Network, or through umbrella organisations like Churchworks.

On its website, which includes an interactive map to help people find a warm place nearby, the campaign says: “Despite the Government's energy announcement, millions of households will still be in fuel poverty this winter, with people with disabilities, elderly people, children, people from ethnic minorities, and low-income households amongst the most affected groups.” 

There is an estimated £800 gap between the overall cost-of-living and package for families on means-tested benefits, meaning many will have to look their local community and churches for support.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool has announced plans to open around 40 parish halls, social clubs and other church spaces this autumn and winter, with “warm and cosy” centres offering free tea, coffee, biscuits, access to WiFi, and television.

About 40 parish clubs and church halls will take part across the diocese, with most sites opening from 1.00pm to 3.30pm.

Similar initiatives are underway in other dioceses, with Caritas Westminster offering £1,000 grants to parishes and associated groups in the dioceses seeking to implement “warm welcome” policies themselves. 

The moves follow former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s call for churches to sign up to the campaign. Writing last month in the Church Times he emphasised the importance of Christian groups this winter, to the vulnerable and the wider community. “It is by recognising the importance of the words of the Sermon on the Mount – and acting on them,” Brown wrote, “that we make our country fairer and stronger.”

These efforts, however, are likely to be hampered by the impact of rising energy bills on churches themselves, with the high heating costs of many church buildings, especially historic ones, placing further stress on limited financial resources.

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