Multiple 'warm banks' have been opening up in Wigan
Multiple warm banks are taking in people in Wigan who cannot afford to heat their homes, new figures show.
The figures come as a leading anti-poverty charity cautions that hundreds of thousands of people on low incomes are at risk during the extreme low temperatures hitting the UK.
The soaring cost of fuel and basic essentials has led to the rise of so-called “warm banks” – locations such as churches and libraries which people can visit if they are struggling to afford heating.
Warm Welcome, a campaign group, has compiled a map of warm spaces across the UK – with three open in Wigan as of December 1.
The charity said nearly 2,700 warm banks were open across the country at this time, including 337 in the North West.
They come in various shapes and sizes, and may provide other support – such as food, hot drinks, and internet access.
The charity says that more spaces are opening every day across the country, and that it is working hard to register new organisations that are helping out – meaning that the real figure could be higher.
David Barclay, manager of the Warm Welcome campaign, called it "unacceptable" that people are being forced to decide whether to heat their homes or eat.
But he said that the response from civil society has provided "cause for hope" – with the number of warm spaces rising significantly from just 350 at the start of October.
Mr Barclay added that warm banks could also have a role in the fight against loneliness in the UK, providing vulnerable people with community support.
The figures come as a cold snap grips the UK.
The UK Health Security Agency has issued a cold weather alert from Wednesday, December 7 to Monday, December 12, saying that those at risk should heat their most-used rooms to at least 18 degrees, wear extra layers, and have plenty of hot food and drinks to keep warm.
But a new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, an anti-poverty charity, estimates that more than 700,000 people on low incomes across the UK cannot afford these necessities.
Rachelle Earwaker, a senior economist at the charity, said that vulnerable people were having to "wager their financial health against their wellbeing" during periods of dangerously cold weather.
She urged the Government to "help everyone who needs it this winter", cautioning that energy bills are still almost double what they were at this point last year – even with the Government's energy price cap.
A spokesperson for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We know the pressures people are facing with rising costs, which is why we have continually taken action to help households by phasing in £37bn worth of support.
“This includes £1,200 to help pay their bills and the two-year Energy Price Guarantee, that will save a typical household £1,000 annually."