Almost 1,500 community groups across England – many of them helping to tackle social isolation and loneliness caused by the COVID-19 crisis – are in for a share of around £30 million in National Lottery funding awarded this month.
The money, raised by players and distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, has been announced as part of Loneliness Awareness Week (15 – 19 June). It also follows new research from the Office of National Statistics showing that more than 7 million people in Britain have suffered from ‘lockdown loneliness’.
One charity leading the way in supporting those at risk of becoming lonely is award-winning Time to Talk Befriending, which was awarded over £90,000 from The National Lottery Community Fund last year, and due to a surge in demand for its support caused by the COVID-19 crisis, has just received a further £21,000.
By matching volunteer befrienders with vulnerable older people who would otherwise have minimal or no other social contact, the group provides the only long-term service of its kind in Worthing, now supporting more than 100 older people.
The much-needed funding will help the group expand its volunteer-led, intergenerational befriending service, so it can keep people of all ages connected and social during the COVID-19 pandemic. With social distancing limiting people from staying connected and socialising, the service has so far received four times more requests for support for older people struggling with isolation than usual.
Time To Talk Befriending’s amazing group of volunteers are working tirelessly to ensure local people remain connected during these difficult times across Brighton and Hove and Adur and Worthing. One such volunteer is Claire, who was matched with Cheryl, six years ago (both pictured) and continues to have an incredible bond and friendship.
Claire (pictured) says of her experiences volunteering:
“Befriending is enriching, life-affirming and joyous, especially when I realised that my match had the same birthday as me, 30 years apart! We celebrate every year together and go out for some food. We’ve been friends through both of my pregnancies and she loves to see my sons too when it’s possible. Befriending has been one of the best volunteering projects I’ve ever been part of. You can form an amazing friendship with someone you may never have met otherwise and it is something you can continue with as long as you wish.
“The charity’s response to COVID-19 has made me more proud than ever to be a part of Time To Talk Befriending. I have made a new telephone befriending match, which has been lovely, and it’s been wonderful to see all the outreach programmes the charity have been involved with.”
Emily Kenward, Founder and CEO of Time to Talk Befriending, said:
“When we first started to identify other areas of need in Sussex, Adur and Worthing were in the highest risk for isolation and scam fraud among the older population. It, therefore, feels like a privilege to extend our befriending service from Brighton and Hove into neighbouring West Sussex which for many experiencing loneliness is proven to be a ‘lifeline’. We are thankful to The National Lottery for enabling us to engage and connect with older people, volunteers and partners in the area so that we can tackle this serious issue of loneliness together.”
Elly De Decker, England Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said:
“Thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to fund thousands of projects working in many different ways to help reduce loneliness and isolation across the country. As we all adapt to profound changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the stigma around loneliness and making it okay to ask for help is more important than ever.
“Loneliness is affecting people from all walks of life during these difficult times. The incredible groups we fund are a powerful force for good – supporting people to connect, reducing feelings of isolation and helping communities come together in new and inspiring ways.”
Thanks to National Lottery players, almost £6 million of National Lottery funding has gone to more than 400 projects tackling loneliness and social isolation across England since the lockdown began, enabling them to provide people with much-needed support. Going forward, The National Lottery Community Fund will continue to prioritise getting funding to groups best placed to support their communities at this vital time and also towards those seeking to rebuild as the crisis abates.
Later this week, The National Lottery Community Fund will bring together leading voluntary and community sector organisations to share insights on how best to support people at risk of loneliness to access digital technologies that can help keep them connected – during the pandemic and long after. The open event, ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’, will take place via Microsoft Teams at 9am on Thursday 18 June 2020.
The National Lottery Community Fund also administers the £11.5 million ‘Building Connections Fund’ – in partnership with the Government and the Co-op Foundation – which was set up in response to the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, to support projects that help to prevent or reduce social isolation.
The National Lottery Community Fund distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Last year it awarded over half a billion pounds (£511.1 million) of life-changing funding to communities across the UK and supported over 12,000 projects to turn their great ideas into reality. 90% of the grants it makes are for under £10,000 – going to grassroots groups and charities across the UK that are bringing to life amazing ideas that matter to their communities.
To find out more please visit: www.TNLCommunityFund.org.uk