Initiative developed further to the success and impact of the Warm Hubs network in winter 2022
Residents across East and South Cambridgeshire can continue to benefit from local support in community buildings this summer, thanks to a new initiative developed on the back of the original Warm Hubs concept that ran in local communities from October 2022 to the end of March 2023.
Warm Hubs were originally designed to support vulnerable and isolated people, as well as those on lower incomes, during the winter of 2022 - at a time when the cost of living was a significant challenge. Operating at the heart of local communities, the Warm Hubs concept offered warm, friendly and inclusive places with access to light refreshments. Hubs also provided residents with somewhere to socialise, take part in activities and receive information on how to reduce bills, access financial support, and stay healthy and well.
Warm Hubs were incredibly popular, but not just for the cost of living support. Hubs offered residents a chance to socialise, meet new friends, and enjoy each other’s company – tackling issues of isolation and loneliness. In establishing Warm Hubs, it became evident that the local communities were craving this sense of connection and togetherness; a desire not just limited to the winter months.
Thanks to new funding from Cambridgeshire County Council (for Hubs in East Cambridgeshire) and South Cambridgeshire District Council (for the Hubs in their District), these local communities can continue to deliver and experience community connections under the newly created Cambridgeshire Community Hubs Network.
Cambridgeshire Community Hubs will run with a similar framework to the original Warm Hubs concept – with an emphasis on offering local communities a place to connect with each other. The activities and services available within the new network will also continue to be operated by the original ‘Warm Hubs trained’ volunteers; who themselves are residents within the local area and uniquely positioned to understand the needs of the local communities.
Cambridgeshire ACRE continues to facilitate the Hubs in this new stage. Commenting on the transfer over to the Cambridgeshire Community Hubs Network, Cambridgeshire ACRE’s Chief Executive, Kirsten Bennett, said: “The Warm Hubs concept made an immediate impact in the communities that they served, and we could see right from the beginning that there was a desire within those communities to continue to build on these community connections once the winter had passed. Whilst Warm Hubs were initially developed to tackle challenges surrounding cost of living during a cold winter, what we saw was communities coming together just to be together – to be social, to not be isolated, to meet new people, and learn new things. We are so pleased that we are able to continue to support local residents and local volunteers through this new initiative, so that they can continue to thrive together under the banner of the Cambridgeshire Community Hubs Network.”
Little Thetford Village Hall was one such community space that acted as a Warm Hub during the winter and which is now transitioning into a Cambridgeshire Community Hubs Network member. With the village hall as its base, and with a newly engaged audience, new activities have been brought into the space – including National Theatre Live events, diabetes prevention clinics, as well the upcoming launch of new specialist activities for mothers, babies and young children. Recognising the importance of exercise, strength and balance to enable independent living, the Hub now also offers chair-based exercises through Forever Active, alongside Tai Chi, Pilates and Yoga from local teachers.
Talking of the importance of the Hub in the parish, lead volunteer for the original Warm Hub and the new Community Hub, Graham James said: "Our Hub has become the true heart of our community and so the wider volunteer team and I are delighted to have the chance to offer a longer term Community Hub in Little Thetford. It’s a beautiful place to live but we had noticed that many of those living in our small parish of 340 homes weren’t interacting with each other. Seeing our residents getting involved in the original Warm Hub; meeting new people, enjoying each other’s company, and sharing new experiences together has been wonderful to see – and we are excited to proactively bring even more activities and events to the newly positioned Little Thetford Community Hub as we build on these firm foundations. However, none of this would be possible without the help and support available from our funders and a wide range of partners such as Cambridgeshire ACRE, Forever Active, Healthwatch and the NHS – and we are grateful to have been able to work together to achieve a common aim.”
The Cambridgeshire Community Hubs Network is set to run in eight communities across East Cambridgeshire until at least the end of March 2024. In South Cambridgeshire, 16 Community Hubs are funded until at least the end of August 2023 with more funding under negotiation.
The Warm Hubs Facebook page was a key way for residents to find out more about Hubs running in their local area, with a large number of followers gained during the winter period. This Facebook page has now been restructured to become the Cambridgeshire Community Hubs Network page, which will act as a new digital home for the continuing network. Residents can visit the new Cambridgeshire Community Hubs Network Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CommunityHubsCambs) to see the full list of Hub locations and their opening hours. For wider community support, residents can also contact East Cambridgeshire District Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council.
(Press release shared on behalf of Cambridgeshire Acre. Photo credit: Matthew Power Photography)