A new “Know Your Neighbourhood Fund” has been announced by government to help to tackle loneliness and volunteering shortages in deprived areas in the United Kingdom. The fund will hand out £30 million to local organisations in 27 different areas in the UK in a bid to improve the wellbeing of those who are most likely to suffer.
To ensure they are targeting the correct areas, the Government has used recent research which showed that adults in deprived areas were more likely to report feeling lonely. In the same report, data also showed that there is a correlation between unemployment rates and loneliness.
The new volunteering opportunities provided by this funding will help to bridge the gap between unemployment and paid work, ensuring that those out of work stay engaged with their community and clear of potential loneliness. They will also help people to develop key skills that will help them in the next stages of their careers.
In total, 27 different organisations will benefit from this funding, all of which tackle loneliness in one way or another. Some of the notable beneficiaries include:
- Groundwork: A federation of charities which create vibrant, green neighbourhoods. They are set to receive £25,000 from the fund which will help to create a number of volunteering opportunities in Blackpool. Volunteers will receive 1-2-1 support and be provided with all the tools to develop personal and professional skills.
- Motive8 Youth C.I.C: A non-profit organisation in Wolverhampton that uses sport to engage and empower young people. Their £20,000 of funding has gone towards recruiting 20 people for an eight-week challenge where they will train to become accredited sports coaches, mentor young people in the local area and deliver social action campaigns.
- A Stich Different CIC: A social enterprise in Barrow-in-Furness for parent carers and young people with autism, ADHD and other disabilities. With £4000 of funding, the group are working with older adults with mental health issues to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
- Age UK Hull: A charity in Hull which offers support to older people in the community. With £27,000 of government funding, the charity has been able to widen its services and now helps over 170 individuals in the area who suffer from isolation. They do this by providing regular home visits to older members of the community.
The funding will also help a number of existing projects expand, such as the Rochdale Connections Trust which has been working to support local people in Rochdale for more than 20 years. With the backing of the “Know Your Neighbourhood Fund”, the trust will be able to re-engage those who have become isolated by using a social prescriber.
A determined effort
Speaking about the launch of the fund, Civil Society Minister, Stuart Andrew, spoke about how loneliness has been on the agenda ever since the pandemic. He said:
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, dedicated volunteers and charity workers came together to support our communities in a real time of need – from taking time to check in on neighbours to delivering prescriptions.
“We are determined to capture this brilliant spirit and see it continue, which is why I’m delighted to announce the launch of this fund. With funding already being allocated, this will create more opportunities for people to volunteer, learn new skills and connect with their communities across the country.”
The fund has been launched with support from The National Lottery Community Fund, Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England and UK Community Foundations (UKCF).
CEO of UKCF, Rosemary Macdonald said:
“The Know Your Neighbourhood Fund has enabled community foundations to provide vital support to initiatives that encourage impactful of volunteering and community connectivity in some of the country’s most vulnerable areas.
“Over the next three years, the insights we learn will help us to understand the issues impacting volunteering and social inclusion, and we’re so grateful to the Government for this opportunity.”
The Government is clearly committed to tackling the issue of loneliness full in the face. With this new funding, they have now pledged nearly £80 million to fix the problem since 2018, including £34 million in response to COVID-19 and the Volunteering Futures Fund which was launched last year.
However, some may argue that instead of looking to “firefight” the issue by helping people once they are already feeling isolated and alone, a better approach would be to be proactive in the first place to ensure people never get to that stage in the first. To do this, better investment in mental health services is needed.