Community venues in County Durham have been invited to apply for funding to help keep people safe and warm this winter. 

Durham County Council has relaunched a campaign to support the voluntary and community sector in partnership with the County Durham Community Foundation. 

Several family Hubs and library buildings throughout the region will also join the scheme.

Grants of up to £3,000 are available as part of a joint investment of £280,000 from the local authority and foundation. 

The ‘Welcome Spaces’ initiative will replace the previous ‘Warm Spaces’, which were established in October 2022 following rises in energy costs and concerns that residents would struggle to heat their homes in winter.

Feedback from the scheme suggested that providing additional support on finance, housing, mental health and wellbeing was also beneficial. 

Cllr Alan Shield, cabinet member for equality and inclusion, said: "We have now broadened support to residents who may be feeling socially isolated and emotionally vulnerable, as well as needing somewhere warm to go through the winter due to the continuing high energy costs and cost-of-living.

"This funding will help to ensure as many residents as possible can benefit from these safe and welcoming environments.”

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Community groups and organisations that receive support will also be offered training on a range of topics, including basic mental health, food safety and safeguarding, with grants able to cover a range of expenses such as utility bills, volunteer expenses or staff time, equipment and furniture.

Michelle Cooper, chief executive of the foundation said: "Last year we were able to fund 137 Warm Spaces, meaning over 16,500 people were able to access warm, inclusive and welcoming spaces during the winter months. 

“I encourage all community groups supporting County Durham residents to visit our website, or talk to a member of the team, about how this grant can be accessed and used to make a difference in County Durham over the coming months."