Elizabeth House director Nathalie Renaud, left, with Council Leader Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz as the council announces it Warm Community Spaces initiative

Islington Council announces Warm Community Spaces network and holds Cost Of Living Summit in quest to protect as many as possible from worst effects of crisis this winter

Islington Council will work with organisations across the borough to keep community centres open as Warm Community Spaces, providing respite to residents this winter as the cost of living emergency bites.

The council and lead partner Octopus Community Network will work together to support the warm and welcoming community spaces that will serve as a sanctuary for those faced with crippling energy costs at home, forcing many to decide between paying for heating or food.

The Warm Community Spaces initiative will launch in mid-October and aims to ensure community centres are available during the day, within walking or wheeling distance of everyone’s front door, offering community-led activities, social connection, access and signposting to support in a warm, welcoming setting. Maps and guides will be produced so people will know where their nearest Warm Community Space is and when it is open. Some centres will operate extended opening hours.

The council has also set up a Cost Of Living Board which will monitor the effects of the cost of living crisis on local people and businesses – and the success of schemes designed to help – to ensure the council targets future help where it’s needed most.

The Board will see how well the Warm Community Spaces are meeting local need, and will seek any available funds to increase capacity or open new spaces according to demand.

Islington Council Leader Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz said: “We’ve declared a cost of living emergency because we know local people are already struggling with energy price rises and inflation, with things set to get worse. This will drag even more residents into severe financial hardship and potentially force local businesses to close. Many will face the stark choice between feeding their family or heating their home.

“We’re determined to help in any way we can to reduce this devastating burden. Our community centres and other public buildings are already the familiar, welcoming places in our borough – it’s absolutely heart-breaking but absolutely right that we offer them as a sanctuary for warmth, one of the basic necessities of life.

“We will provide more details of the locations soon and monitor the Warm Community Spaces once they’re up and running, to ensure there is enough capacity to meet the demand as winter sets in.”

Nathalie Renaud, director of Elizabeth House Community Centre in Highbury, said: “Our community centre is an anchor for many people in our area, home to many activities from IT training and a lunch club to baby massage classes and a food hub. It is a welcoming place for everyone and we work hard to adapt our services when needed. The extra funding means that this winter, Elizabeth House will offer a range of activities in a safe, friendly and warm place for local residents.”

Julie Parish, network development manager of Octopus Community Network, said: “As a network we have collaborated for over 22 years, so we can organise and mobilise swiftly during times of crisis. The borough-wide Warm Community Spaces initiative, which will be regularly reviewed to reflect the emerging needs of local communities, will ensure an effective joined-up, cross-sector response.”

Earlier this week, some of the borough’s top advocates for social justice – including senior representatives from about 20 local charities, voluntary sector organisations, health and education partners, key employers and businesses – joined councillors and council officers at the Islington Together Cost Of Living Summit.

The summit, convened by the council, was held to assess the impact the crisis is having – and will have – on our local communities, and saw discussion on how the organisations can find new ways of collaborating to cushion local residents and businesses from the worst effects of the crisis.

The summit helped build a fuller picture of the existing network of support for local residents, businesses and communities, and has strengthened the resolve of partners to pull out all the stops.

Cllr Comer-Schwartz who initiated and chaired the summit just days after the council announced a cost of living emergency, said: “One of the great strengths of our borough is that, in times of crisis, we pull together to help those who most need our support – just as we did during the pandemic. This summit was a vital chance to share, discuss and test out ideas to ensure that as partners, service providers and employers, we take every opportunity to help and protect the most vulnerable in our society from the harshest consequences of the crisis.”


Notes to editor

More information on the council’s response to the cost of living crisis can be found in this report to Executive on Thursday, 13 October.

Monday’s Cost Of Living Summit was attended by senior representatives from groups including:

  • NHS North Central London Integrated Care Board
  • Whittington Health NHS Trust
  • University College London Hospital
  • Capital City College Group
  • City, University of London
  • London Metropolitan University
  • London Fire Brigade
  • Angel Business Improvement District
  • Peabody Housing Association
  • Arsenal FC
  • Islington Citizen’s Advice
  • Islington People’s Rights
  • Help On Your Doorstep
  • Cripplegate Foundation
  • Cloudesley
  • Octopus Community Network
  • Voluntary Action Islington
  • Age UK Islington
  • Manor Gardens Welfare Trust
  • London Capital Credit Union
  • St Luke’s Community Centre
  • Highbury Roundhouse Community Centre
  • Islington BAMER Advice Alliance
  • Islington Refugee & Migrant Forum
  • Islington Faiths Forum
  • Islington Pensioners’ Forum
  • Betknowmore UK

The Islington Together Cost Of Living Summit, the Warm Community Spaces initiative and the Cost Of Living Board are the latest actions from Islington to soften the blow of the crisis and support residents and businesses. Last month, Cllr Comer-Schwartz lobbied Prime Minister Liz Truss for a comprehensive package of support for families and businesses that will help them right now.

The council has launched a communications campaign to make more people aware of the support already on offer, ensuring residents have access to money advice and support. As part of this effort, the council’s IMAX team helped put £5million into the pockets of residents who hadn’t been claiming all the benefits they were entitled to last year – and is working hard to repeat this for more residents again this year.

This month the council will begin distribution of £2.2million to vulnerable households most in need of support with living costs – the third tranche of the Government’s Household Support Fund. Since October 2021, the council has distributed all of the £4.4 million made available via the fund (£2.2m distributed in Round 1, October 2021 – March 2022, and a further £2.2m in Round 2, April – September 2022).

Last month, the council also allocated the final £4.8million tranche of the Government’s Covid-19 Additional Relief Fund to support more than 950 eligible local small and medium-sized businesses, reducing their business rates bills and maximising the amount of funding staying in the borough. It has also made sure every penny of the Government’s Council Tax Energy Rebate has been distributed to eligible local households.

Islington already has the highest level of child poverty in London, the fourth-highest level for older people, and 4,500 households spending more than they bring in, whose savings could run out by Christmas. This crisis is putting further strain on the mental and physical health of even more people after a very difficult few years.

Contact information

If you are a member of the public with a general question about the council please view the contact information on our website or call 020 7527 2000.