white radiator heater beside brown wooden window
Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

More than 500,000 people in UK visited ‘warm rooms’ during the winter according to the Warm Welcome campaign, the network of over 4,200 warm spaces. Their research is fascinating and I’m sure will hit a note with the experience of those who volunteered. People were escaping not just from a cold house, they were escaping from an empty and lonely house.

Of course, no-one needs to tell Co-op Party members the social value of public space, or how hard communal public areas such as libraries and community centres have been hit by cuts. The co-operative movement has stepped up and has sought to fill many of the gaps. The retail societies have backed their commitment to co-operative principles with action and financial support, running campaigns to tackle loneliness, provide support for community groups, run member events, and backed the warm spaces campaign over the winter with hard cash.

The Co-op Party has highlighted much of the work that has been done in our events and online, but the findings of the Warm Welcome campaign offer an opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved through the Movement’s wider work. We can be proud of what the Movement does: the campaigns that we’ve run at the Central Co-op (formerly known as Central England) such as “time to talk” or our Men Utd Group held in our Insomnia café in Littleover aimed at tackling loneliness, cold homes and improving mental health;  the “Lonely Not Alone” campaign by the Co-op Foundation; Group’s loneliness campaign which has raised staggering amounts of money in support of the work of the British Red Cross.

Ultimately, we know about the importance of coming together. It’s ingrained in our collective history, from the Fenwick weavers and the Rochdale Pioneers onwards, and the Warm Welcome research is a timely reminder that we’re better together. That holds true for society generally, and also true when it comes to the co-op movement and the Co-op Party. Let’s Keep it Co-op.