Greenside Cricket Club is one of 65 venues across the borough of Gateshead that have signed up to be "warm spaces" for people - similar schemes have been set up all over the UK sometimes with different names but all doing the same sort of thing.


“It’s Victorian isn’t it?” asks Hannay Reay as she contemplates just what they are doing.

She’s sprucing up the players’ lounge her son uses in the summer as a player at their local cricket club so it can be used as a “warm space” this winter – offering locals somewhere to go if they can’t afford to heat their homes.

“It’s just a huge thing,” Hannah tells Sky News.

“Not even just people on Universal Credit who are going to struggle – it is universal, everybody’s going to struggle. It’s just hideous really.”

Inside Britain's 'warm spaces' - where people go when they can't afford to heat their homes

She’s wiping down the tables, checking how the portable smart thermostat actually works and planning out how they can make it a practical useful space for people.

“We’ll have games and books, it’s somewhere to charge your phone and a place where everyone will be respected – we just want to be here for people, with a cuppa and a slice of cake,” added Hannah.

Greenside Cricket Club is one of 65 venues across the borough of Gateshead that have signed up to be “warm spaces” for people – similar schemes have been set up all over the UK sometimes with different names but all doing the same sort of thing.

It’s communities and local authorities trying to mitigate just one of the financial dilemmas so many people are facing.

Churches, community centres and sports clubs have all signed up – discussions are even ongoing with the fire service in Tyne & Wear to see if their buildings can be used too.

‘It’s getting a bit ridiculous’

Greenside Cricket Club also doubles up as a weekly food market that Hannah and her cheerful Pickle Palace team were already running. They make pickles too, hence the name.

At their market, people can fill a bag with groceries after paying the £3 entrance fee.

Mum of two Jess is a regular at the market with her seven-month-old daughter, she can’t quite believe how far people are being pushed towards poverty through no fault of their own.

“I think the fact that people are going to have to come here to sit to be warm, I mean come on it is getting a bit ridiculous, isn’t it?

“I think the government need to pull their finger out and do something about it.”

Liz Truss’ government has already intervened by limiting the impact of rising energy bills for households from 1 October – there are also various energy discount schemes.

Inside Britain's 'warm spaces' - where people go when they can't afford to heat their homes

Image: Hannah is helping spruce up the lounge to become a “warm space”

The reality for so many families though is that it isn’t enough. Inflation, rising interest rates, petrol and diesel – everything is costing more than it did last year.

For many families budgets are so tight and so uncertain that the UK government’s help is negligible.

Two in three households to be struggling by January

Citizen’s Advice has told Sky News they expect two in every three households to be struggling to meet essential household bills by January.

Alison Dunn of Citizens Advice Gateshead told Sky News: “That’s a terrible number. It equates to something like 24 million households.

“As a network, we are expecting a tsunami of demand through our door.”

While they do their best to help everyone Citizens Advice in this part of the North East of England have their own volunteers telling them they won’t be able to continue working for them because they are having to cut their home broadband off to save money.

Read more:
How much will my bills increase now the energy price cap comes into effect
Fiscal watchdog to give initial forecast on mini-budget
Will the housing market crash? Is my pension safe? Your questions answered

Inside Britain's 'warm spaces' - where people go when they can't afford to heat their homes

Image: Gateshead is one of many places starting a warm spaces scheme

Government interventions won’t make a difference

National Energy Action, which works to eradicate fuel poverty across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said that the government interventions that have just come into effect won’t make enough of a difference.

NEA’s director of policy Peter Smith said: “It’s sadly not surprising that people are being driven to this.

“Low-income households already finding it impossible to pay for their energy will be pushed into desperate coping tactics such as going elsewhere for warmth.

“And even if they don’t use any of their own energy, they will still be spending money and going further into debt as a result of the standing charge. Low-income households need further targeted support from the government if they are to stay afloat this winter.”

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The problem that they have at Greenside Cricket Club – and at every other venue that has signed up to be a “warm space” – is that people will visit and then leave – often heading back to cold homes where sometimes there won’t be enough food.

People want their own warm spaces in their own homes. In Greenside they don’t think that’s too much to expect.

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