Warm Spaces – guidance for host organisations
Voluntary Action Leeds
Thank you for offering to open your doors to people in your community.
The Warm Spaces map initially shows the Leeds City Council-managed venues of community hubs and libraries, where a warm welcome will include free hot refreshments and activities for children and families in addition to the existing services of free access to books, computers and wifi. The third sector’s Warm Spaces will add to this offer in a complementary way, expanding the range of spaces that people in Leeds can access.
Your contribution to help support people this winter is very much appreciated. We recognise that in the third sector in Leeds we have a wealth of experience and knowledge of working with local communities. We believe that locally trusted organisations are in the best place to deliver support by offering a warm, welcoming and safe space for people to come to who might be juggling increased cost of heating their homes with other financial demands.
We have hope that everyone will share our vision of warm, welcoming space. This document sets out some key things you will need to have in place and some ideas for making a Warm Space that will support you to achieve this vision
In this document you will find information, draft documents and tips for running a welcoming and inclusive Warm Space.
Keeping people safe is the most important part of your Warm Space offer. We expect that every organisation will have the following key things in place before they decide to open their doors.
- We have a warm, welcoming and safe space to offer our local community
- We have an up-to-date Safeguarding Policy
- We have Public Liability Insurance
- We have risk assessed the space and will minimise risk to our visitors
- Our staff or volunteers have basic knowledge of services that they could signpost to
You need to be able to answer yes to these statements before your offer will ‘go live’ on Leeds City Council’s website.
A Warm Space is welcoming, safe and supportive. Here is what we think that might look like, but if you have any further ideas to share, please get in touch, we intend to update this guidance as we learn together.
A welcoming space…
- Offers free basic refreshments e.g. tea and coffee
- Provides some activities/reading materials
- Staff or volunteers are available to greet and help ensure people feel at home
A safe space…
- Has assessed and risks are minimised
- Has Public Liability insurance
- Can offer people some basic immediate support
- People serving food have a Level 2 Food Hygiene certificate
A supportive space…
- Is ready to listen
- Can signpost people to support if they need it
- Might link to other local organisations
Voluntary Action Leeds and Forum Central have also provided some practical advice and offers of support for organisations. This includes:
- Facilitating local links
- Support to help find volunteers
- Community Champions to support people around health messages
It is important to remember that a Warm Space is an inclusive, non-judgmental space where people’s confidentiality and privacy are to be respected. Your Warm Space should be offered for free to people who use it, including basic refreshments if possible, for example tea and coffee for visitors. Other things you could consider providing include free Wi-Fi, charging points for mobile phones, reading materials, board games or other activities. You could also ask people joining your Warm Spaces community what type of activities they would like and, even better, invite them to bring an activity or teach a skill to others. If you already run activities in your space, you could think about how open up these activities or make them more accessible to people visiting you as a Warm Space.
Warm Spaces should be inclusive, but your organisation may serve a specific community or group of people. If you wish to open your Warm Space to that specific community, you may want to consider:
- If you are not open to the public, make sure that you untick the ‘public’ box when you apply to become a Warm Space. This will make sure that you don’t appear on the online map.
- If you are open to the public, but only on certain days, make sure that you make this clear in the ‘description’ box when you register.
If you intend to provide food, this should either be free or on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis to ensure that there is never an expectation for people to spend money to visit a Warm Space. There are no minimum opening hours required, you just need to be clear when you will be open – ideally this will be the same each week so people can plan their visit in advance. Don’t forget to update your offer by emailing Warm.Spaces@leeds.gov.uk if your hours change.
In addition to your existing risk assessment that you will have in place for your building you should also consider additional risks that could occur:
- People that you might not know coming to the building
- People presenting in crisis or distress
- Translation or access requirements that you might not have experience with.
It is important to be aware of the risk of Covid-19 over the winter months. Whilst there are currently no restrictions in place that would apply to a Warm Space, you would still be advised to have face masks and hand gel available. If the space allows, you could consider creating a space where people can maintain social distance. Covid-19 levels and the vulnerability of attendees should be taken into consideration when deciding capacity of the venue. You can download Covid-19 safety advice posters here: poster 1, poster 2, poster 3.
We would recommend as part of your safeguarding policy you display posters and information on how people can contact the Safeguarding Officer if they have concerns. If you are providing food, ensure that food handlers have a Food Hygiene Certificate Level 2. If you would like support or advice around your risk assessment, safeguarding policy and training, or Food Hygiene Certificate then please contact Voluntary Action Leeds on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0113 2977920.
You can access more information about how to help someone in a mental health crisis at Mindwell Leeds.
Remember, if you have concerns that someone is at immediate risk of harm you should call 999 straight away.
Information about how to get help someone who is being exploited or forced to work against their will (modern slavery) can be found here.
Emergency out of hours information can be found here.
The Cost of Living crisis has had a significant impact on people’s personal finances, housing, mental health and wellbeing and in many other ways.
Visitors to your warm space might need some support. Although you may not have the specific expertise within your warm space, it’s important that you are able to signpost people to the right support if they need it. Some useful links include:
Worrying about money leaflet for Leeds includes contact details for local organisations supporting people around debt, finances, and benefit payments
You can order free leaflets and posters about health and wellbeing support via the Public Health Resource Centre here.
Groundwork’s Green Doctor service can help you to save money, energy and stay warm & well
Leeds Food Aid Network have online maps showing the nearest places to access emergency food or low-cost food and meals.
Turn2Us Benefit Calculator is a great free resource for people to check they are not missing any benefits they are entitled to.
You may be able to find other local services and groups who are looking for places to run drop-ins and provide signposting and referral support.
Support for Organisations
It’s important to remember you are not alone in the delivery of Warm Spaces. Our hope is that a network of locally trusted organisations will populate the map on Leeds City Council’s website. It is also the case that some organisations might choose to run as a warm space but not want to be publicly advertised on the map.
There is lots of support and advice on offer to organisations offering a Warm Space. To start with, look local – how can you deliver in partnership with those organisations local to you? Could you co-ordinate your opening times, share resources, or volunteers for example?
As a starting point, you could contact your local community anchor through the Leeds Community Anchor Network (LCAN), or speak to your Local Care Partnership, who can both help to link you up with others in your area.
Volunteers are likely to be at the heart of your Warm Space offer. Firstly, look at the assets around you – people regularly accessing your Warm Space might enjoy being able to give back as part of using the space (although this should never be a requirement).
If you would like some support around recruiting and managing volunteers, you can contact Volunteer Centre Leeds (which is a project of Voluntary Action Leeds) for advice and guidance, by emailing email@example.com or calling 0113 297 7920.
Here are some tips and resources to help with supporting volunteers in your Warm Space:
- If you have volunteering opportunities at your Warm Space, it’s a good idea to write a volunteer role to be clear about what you’re looking for. You could use our template warm spaces volunteer role.
- You can then advertise the volunteer role on our volunteering platform, Be Collective, where people who are looking to volunteer can see them and apply.
- If you haven’t used BeCollective before and would like some support with this, you can contact Volunteer Centre Leeds using the details above, or check out our guide to using BeCollective.
You could also promote opportunities to people who might like to volunteer by displaying posters in your Warm Space for people to see when they visit.
You can find lots more information about supporting volunteers on our website.
If your Warm Space is located in Chapeltown, Gipton and Harehills, Burmantofts and Richmond Hill, Beeston and Holbeck, Little London, Woodhouse or Middleton, our Community Champions would love to hear from you. We have a team of volunteers happy to attend a session to help promote positive health messages and let you know about vaccination sessions near you. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.