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Sunday, 23 June 2024

Community connections strengthen despite cost-of-living pressures

PEOPLE across the UK predict growing pressure on local community-run support services in 2023, with the rising cost-of-living expected to drive up demand for food banks, debt advice and mental health charities. At the same time, despite personal and household pressures, community connections have strengthened, and more people intend to volunteer in 2023, with food banks set to benefit most from their community-minded efforts:  

  • Local priorities: over half of UK adults (55%) say that supporting people with the rising cost-of-living is most important for the well-being of their local community
  • People predict rising demand locally this year for food banks (81%), debt advice (77%) and mental health support (75%) driven by cost-of-living concerns
  • Almost half of us (49%) intend to volunteer in 2023 with young people (18 to 24) leading the way (69%) – food banks are most likely to receive a helping hand, being the focus for four in ten (42%) of those who intend to volunteer
  • Community connections strengthen: three-quarters of UK adults (74%) say they feel part of their local community, rising from 69% in 2020 – plus more of us say it’s important to us too(69% compared to 62% two years ago)
  • The National Lottery Community Fund commits to supporting UK communities and responding to the challenges they face, including the cost-of-living crisis.

As the UK welcomes in a new year, The National Lottery Community Fund’s latest Community Research Index shows people across the country are predicting rising pressure on local community-run services due to the impact of the cost-of-living.

Community connections strengthen despite cost-of-living pressures

Eight in ten (81%) say their local food banks are likely to face an increase in demand, and three in four predict an increase in the need for debt advice and support (77%) and mental health charities and services (75%).

The annual survey of over 8,000 adults across the UK is designed to find out how people feel about their communities, which in turn helps The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, to respond.

Cost-of-living concerns have had a big impact on people’s perceptions of priorities for the year ahead. Over half (55%) say that supporting people with this is most important for the well-being of their local community, although this rises to over six in ten women (61%).

Reducing isolation and loneliness (53%), and people caring and looking out for each other (50%) are also seen as important, which may explain why volunteering intentions are strong for 2023.

In fact, despite personal and household pressures, slightly more people (49%) intend to volunteer in the year ahead (up from 46% last year) – with food banks most likely to receive a helping hand, being the focus for four in ten (42%) of those who intend to help out or volunteer.

Young people are leading the way with their community-minded efforts, with seven in ten (69%) 18 to 24-year-olds intending to volunteer in 2023.

And, in the face of adversity, even more people – three quarters (74%) across the UK – feel a sense of connection to their local community, rising from 69% in 2020. Feeling part of the community is also growing in value, with 69% saying it is important to them, compared to 62% two years ago.

When thinking of their community’s physical environment, people identify safety on the streets (70%), keeping the area looking nice (62%) and young people having places to go and things to do (61%) as local priorities this year.

Top five community priorities for 2023 
Physical environment Wellbeing 
Safety on the streets (70%)Supporting people with the rising cost-of-living (55%)
Keeping the area looking nice (62%)Reducing loneliness and isolation (53%)
Young people having places to go and things to do (61%)People caring and looking out for each other (50%)
Community activities that bring people together (53%)Preventing youth violence (42%)
Having access to natural, green spaces (51%)Providing services for mental health (42%)

David Knott, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund, said:

“It’s clear that the year ahead is set to be dominated by cost-of-living concerns and this is going to be as much a priority for communities as it is for individuals. Despite the challenges and hardships people are facing, it’s clear that the UK’s sense of community holds strong and even more people, particularly the younger generation, feel motivated to help others out.

“As the largest funder of community activity in the UK our purpose is to support people and communities to thrive. We are listening to communities and the groups we fund and are responding flexibly to their needs. We understand the pressures and expect to commit over £75 million in funding to support cost-of-living throughout the next year. We are also undergoing a Strategy Renewal process to ensure that our funding and support for communities is fit-for-purpose in the years to come.”

Agreeing with the findings, Jane Johnson from Random Café in Watford, which receives support from The National Lottery Community Fund, said: 

“It is no surprise supporting people through the cost-of-living is a priority for next year. We have seen an increase in customers struggling and using Random Café to cover their weekly shop as we offer food on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis because we believe everyone should have access to food.

“We believe that being part of the community is particularly important, which may explain the increased volunteer intentions. We have volunteers of all ages who are eager to give back to the community. People see it as an opportunity to keep the area looking nice and interact with others, but for some, it’s part of their recovery from mental health challenges. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have a community garden which gives people access to green space and a warm meeting place with events to bring people of all ages together.”

Karen Fielder, CEO of Top Church Training in Dudley, another National Lottery funded community group, added:

“The cost-of-living crisis has had a significant impact on Dudley, and we’re seeing that it’s not just low-income families who are suffering – everyone is affected in some way, shape, or form.

“We’re also seeing an increase in people banding together in their communities to do their part. Many of the people we support have struggled greatly, have overcome some of their financial challenges through our benefits advice and debt management assistance, and have then felt so empowered and inspired to become volunteers themselves. Our hope is that we will all be able to remain resilient and strong during this difficult time, while also instilling a sense of community in our service users and staff.”

The National Lottery Community Fund distributes money raised by National Lottery players, who raise over £30 million each week for good causes across the UK. Thanks to National Lottery players last year, The National Lottery Community Fund awarded over half a billion pounds (£588.2 million) of life-changing funding to communities across the UK.

To find out more, please visit: www.TNLCommunityFund.org.uk.

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