A woman and man sitting drinking a coffee

A new Swansea University study highlights how Swansea’s ‘warm hubs’, established last winter in response to the cost-of-living crisis, have played a significant role in fostering social connections, alleviating loneliness, and enhancing users’ overall wellbeing. 

Swansea Council provided grants worth £80,000 of Welsh Government funding to charities, voluntary and not-for-profit organisation to help them provide safe, warm and welcoming places within communities across Swansea where people could go to during the winter.

Launched in November 2022, the ‘warm hubs’ became known as Swansea Spaces, where community organisations and public spaces opened their doors to offer a warm place to sit, hot drink, and local support.

Researchers at Swansea University used focus groups, interviews, and questionnaires to understand the broader implications of Swansea Spaces on social connections and community strength.

One of the study's standout findings was the profound impact of Swansea Spaces in building social connections and reducing feelings of loneliness.

Feedback from more than 90 per cent of participating organisations indicated a tangible difference to those visiting the spaces, with 27 per cent suggesting an improvement in their overall wellbeing.

The study also found that Swansea Spaces went beyond their primary purpose, extending or enhancing services for those in need, and were universally regarded as safe and inclusive, described by participants as friendly, non-judgmental, accessible, and trusted places.

Additionally, all Swansea Spaces emerged as dynamic learning spaces, encouraging information sharing and community activities.

Ella Rabaiotti of Swansea University’s School of Social Sciences said: “Established as 'warm hubs' in response to the cost-of-living crisis, Swansea Spaces exceeded expectations by offering more than just a place to stay warm and enjoy a hot drink—they provided emotional warmth too. The most noteworthy outcome, an unintended consequence of the initiative, was its profound impact on fostering social connections and alleviating isolation.

“The Swansea Spaces initiative has garnered overwhelmingly positive feedback, with many locations continuing the initiative despite the conclusion of funding. However, the study suggests a need for additional research to understand barriers preventing certain individuals from attending Swansea Spaces and to explore responsive strategies. Moreover, there is potential for Swansea Spaces to evolve into a comprehensive, place-based approach offering a higher level of tailored support and advice.”

Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Supporting Communities, Hayley Gwilliam, said: “I was fortunate to visit many of the Swansea Spaces last winter and saw first the hand the difference they were making to the wellbeing of our residents.

“This research by Swansea University is very welcome as it confirms that the initiative had a real and lasting impact on people’s lives.

“Swansea Council has again made grants available to groups and organisations that will be running Swansea Spaces this winter and I’m proud that we are continuing this support to help people with the cost-of-living crisis and tackling loneliness and isolation.”

 Watch a short animation highlighting the study's findings

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