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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

An indictment of the time we live in: why we've opened a warm bank


James Wells of the LifeCare Edinburgh charity on the reasons it is opening its doors

The cold dark months are always hard, but this year will be devastating for many.

At LifeCare, we have proudly protected the physical and mental health of local older people for over 80 years. We didn’t stop during Covid; we adapted our services and our passionate staff worked tirelessly to make sure older people had everything they needed to stay safe and well. We established new services and partnerships, and we increased the use of technology to keep life-saving services running remotely.

We are rooted in local communities including Leith, Muirhouse, Pilton, and Stockbridge, from where we operate our busy community hub and café providing vital space for all generations to get together for activities, gatherings, and good value food. We care for over 1,000 local older people a year and, with over 87% living alone, we provide personalised support to help them live well at home and stay connected to others.

And now, just as we hoped we could take a breath after the worst of the pandemic, we face a new cost of living crisis meaning many older people struggling and are full of fear. The Food Train and Age UK have highlighted the impact on malnourishment and fuel poverty this winter. At LifeCare, we are experiencing unprecedented levels demand for our, up 250% in some services.

Older people are still coming to terms with the aftermath of Covid restrictions – mobility, confidence and motivation deteriorated, and loneliness increased. These same people now cannot afford to take part in activities or meet friends. On top of the ‘heat or eat’ dilemma, many are at risk of serious social isolation.

So, we have made the decision to set up the LifeCare Centre as a ‘warm bank’, offering warmth, hot food, warm drinks, company, and activities at no cost for those who need it.

We know there is much debate about the requirement for these spaces, and we too would rather see the root causes addressed and add our voice to those calling for systemic action to end the vicious cycle of poverty.

In 1962, LifeCare ran a Coal & Comfort campaign to help older people through one of the worst winters in living memory, and it is a tragic indictment of successive governments’ failure to address these issues, that we are forced to take similar action 60 years later. However, we cannot ignore those in need right now across our community. We want to extend opening hours for as long as it is needed, offering care and resources that people really need.

Our Winter Warmer campaign aims to raise essential funds to support our lifesaving and life-affirming services going forward. We are reaching out to funders and to those who are able across local communities to help LifeCare support to older people to keep warm and well in body, mind, and spirit.

James Wells is chief executive at LifeCare Edinburgh.

This article appears in the December edition of TFN magazine, along with a discussion piece on warm banks. Read it here.



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