Cost of living: Warm banks offering free heating in libraries and town halls will close over Christmas – leaving users filled with dread | UK News

As freezing temperatures continue and the cost of living soars, people are turning to the “hot banks” for respite.

But they have become so essential for some that the fear that they will be closed at Christmas is making users anxious and worried.

Hot banks are popping up all over the country, aiming to help those struggling to heat their homes in the colder months.

They have been established by councils, community groups and charities, providing people with a warm and welcoming space, and often food and refreshments as well.

Carol Morrison regularly frequents a local warm bank housed in a library in south-east London. She said it had been a “lifesaver” during the cold spell.

“When I’m here it’s like everything disappears, I don’t have to worry about anything,” she told Sky News.

But most days the hot bank has to close at 5 p.m., leaving Carol “nowhere to go”.

It comes at a time when energy prices have soared, leaving many people struggling to pay their gas and electricity bills.

Unable to heat her house, Carol goes straight to bed most nights.

“What else is it? I don’t want to sit in the front room, it’s cold, I’m just lying in my bed.”

Carol's local hot bank is based inside New Cross Library, South East London
Carol’s local hot bank is based inside New Cross Library, South East London

In London, all councils said they would provide a hot bank system.

But inevitably, many who rely on them will face a tough Christmas and New Year, as many hot banks will be closed over the festive period.

The cold wreaks physical and mental havoc

Carol doesn’t know how she’ll spend the holidays – her local hot bank won’t reopen until the new year.

The cold weather coupled with the rising cost of living had a huge impact on his well-being, intensifying his arthritis.

“My joints seize up and once my joints seize up I can barely walk,” she said.

“When it’s cold, my back hurts badly. The pain is the worst. It’s excruciating.”

Carol and other service users inside the hot bank
Carol and other service users inside the hot bank

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She said it also had a huge impact on her mental health.

“It’s depressing. I find myself very isolated, I don’t want to talk to people, I don’t care, I just feel depressed.

“I never thought that if you retire it’s like this. I never thought it would go so badly.”

As we enter the holiday season, it will be a dread-filled season for Carol.

All she wants is to be able to stay warm.

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