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UK launches fund to tackle loneliness and boost volunteering

Sad lonely woman sitting at desk at home and thinking

Youth clubs, mental health charities and social enterprises are among the organisations to benefit from up to £30 million to create volunteering opportunities and help reduce loneliness.

Launched by the government working in partnership with The National Lottery Community Fund, Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England and UK Community Foundations (UKCF), the ‘Know Your Neighbourhood Fund’ will support local organisations in (27 areas) to increase their offer of projects that enrich lives to help improve wellbeing and social connections.

Recent research has revealed that adults were more likely to report feeling lonely if they lived in a deprived area, and that areas with higher rates of unemployment tend to have higher rates of loneliness.

Volunteering opportunities help to connect communities, help people to develop skills and grow their networks; and help public services serve local communities.

With locations including Barnsley, Middlesbrough and South Tyneside, funding will help develop volunteering programmes, provide 1-1 support for vulnerable residents, fund new activities such as arts and crafts, sport and coffee sessions, and support social community events amongst other projects.

Examples of the beneficiaries include:

  • Groundwork is a federation of charities aiming to create vibrant, green, neighbourhoods. Thanks to funding of £25,000, more volunteering opportunities have been created in the garden, café, reception and library at their Grange Park Community Hub, Blackpool. This offers volunteers the chance to develop skills, socialise and connect with their local community, with funds providing training and 1-2-1 support.
  • Motive8 Youth C.I.C is a non-profit organisation ​​using the power of sport to engage and empower young people in Wolverhampton. £20,000 funding has been used to recruit 20 young people to undertake an eight-week challenge, including training to become an accredited sports coach, mentoring, undertaking volunteering sessions, and delivering a social action campaign.
  • A Stitch Different CIC is a social enterprise made up of parent carers of young people with autism, ADHD, sensory and other disabilities in Barrow-in-Furness, who create weighted, compression and sensory products. With a fund of nearly £4,000, the organisation is working with older adults who have mental health issues, encouraging parent carers to volunteer to reduce feelings of isolation.
  • Age UK Hull is a charity working in Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire offering support and services to older people. The project has received nearly £27,000 to widen its Home Befriending Service in Kingston upon Hull, expected to support over 170 individuals suffering from isolation by providing regular home visits to older individuals.

Civil Society Minister Stuart Andrew 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 the Know Your Neighbourhood 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.

Rosemary Macdonald, CEO, UK Community Foundations said, Loneliness can impact anyone at any time in any community, and the work of voluntary organisations to reduce isolation and loneliness has been in higher demand since the pandemic.

The Know Your Neighbourhood Fund has enabled community foundations to provide vital support to initiatives that encourage impactful 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.

Elsewhere, the Know Your Neighbourhood Fund will create volunteering opportunities in local museums, voluntary arts groups such as community choirs, music and drama clubs, and connect communities through projects related to their high streets. This work will be supported by £5 million to creative arts and cultural organisations through Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England.

A number of projects will be expanded following support from the Know Your Neighbourhood Fund, supported by up to £10 million from The National Lottery Community Fund. Examples of where this funding will go include:

Rochdale Connections Trust has worked to support local people living across the Borough of Rochdale for over 20 years. Know Your Neighbourhood funding will enable the organisation to utilise a social prescriber to re-engage those who have become isolated, detached and lonely by developing a range of activities that meet the needs of the local community.

Jack Drum Arts in County Durham aims to deliver an inter-generational project bringing people of all ages together to participate in regular weekly activities, culminating in a community carnival. Activities include arts and wellbeing sessions such as drumming, singing, dance, carnival costume and prop making, with participants volunteering to support the delivery of activities and organising of the community carnival.

Centre 81 is a skills and activities centre for people with disabilities in Great Yarmouth. Funding will allow the project to create a supportive place for people to socialise within the newly refurbished Yare House, providing a welcoming coffee and lunch space with the opportunity to take part in a range of different activities such as crafts, cooking and woodwork.

This funding builds on the almost £50 million the government and its partners have invested in tackling loneliness since 2018, including over £34 million in response to COVID-19 as part of the £750 million voluntary and community sector funding package. This is in addition to the £4.6 million Volunteering Futures Fund launched in 2022, which will allow more than 160 community organisations to support 7,800 new volunteering opportunities.

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