The Residents’ Association partners with the Bowling Club to provide a warm weekly center

Inside the warm center are Penn Residents Association Vice President Arko Sen and President Debbie Peach, at the Penn Bowling Club.

The Penn Residents Association has partnered with the Penn Bowling Club to set up the warm hub, which will take place every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Although the club is officially a members club, it has opened its doors to all for these gatherings and everyone is welcome.

As well as plenty of games, there will be a Job Change session each week, advising people on everything from claiming good benefits to how to use the NHS app.

Debbie Peach, president of the association, said: “About two months ago when we were coming out of the pandemic, we could see that people were isolated and there was a need to bring people together and talk.

“We could see the need to help older people more than anyone. There was a big problem with the lack of internet literacy and the use of NHS online resources, as well as claiming the benefits they have right.

“A lot of people don’t know what they can access, so we started identifying the needs of Penn residents.

“We’re heading into tough times and it’s all about bringing people together and playing games. It feels like home here, and the bowling club has been wonderful allowing us to come here.”

Association vice-president Arko Sen of Penn added: “We’ve been leading the association since January and it quickly became clear that people came out of Covid with a lack of confidence in certain things.

“In the beginning, we were really problem-focused, looking at the mega problems that we knew were in the community and trying to solve them.

“Now it’s a combination. We want to hear your issues but we also want you to use what we have. We’re all here, come listen.”

The Penns Residents Association has a mailing list of 200 people on which they advertise their events, but they strive to reach 6,000 homes in Penn. To do this, they will need more volunteers.

Arko added: “Penn has a lot of people who don’t have online access. It’s a giveaway when people have email so we can communicate, but we need other ways, including newsletters and word of mouth.

“We are grateful to all our volunteers, but we need more to spread the newsletters.”

The association expressed their gratitude to Gavin Craddock, the general manager of the bowling club, for hosting their warm center.

Gavin, from Penn, said: “It’s open to everyone. The Penn Bowling Club and the committee have always supported the local community, and the committee has been brilliant.

“There was a general concern about the cost of living and people are paying more attention to what they are spending. As a club we recognize that and we have not raised our prices. We have tried to absorb what they spend. we can.”

As well as warmth and companionship, the charity hopes the hub will help people navigate NHS online tools and claim the benefits they are entitled to.

Sam Dytor, job skills and training manager at Job Change, gave a talk at the first warm hub on how to use the NHS app.

Sam said: “There is a great need for this help. I took a course on how to use the app yesterday, and only half of the people in the room could use it.

“People have trouble signing up on the app, especially scanning their ID and then their face – people need a lot of help with that. We’re also making sure people don’t pay to take free appointments.

“We offer help with the NHS app, which 60% of GPs now use to book appointments, as well as career advice and social skills.

“We also provide advice and checks on benefits, making sure that all residents claiming benefits they are entitled to, as £15billion goes unclaimed each year.

“Retirees are the biggest group of people not claiming the benefits they are entitled to. They are the biggest group missing out.”