Government’s funding will help provide immediate and targeted relief to those most at risk of loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic.
Support will primarily target sectors that bring people and communities together, including the arts, libraries, charities and radio. It will be a lifeline to cultural organisations, charities and local community groups who are delivering much-needed work to ensure no one feels isolated in their local community.
The funding will be distributed via three existing schemes:
- £5 million to Arts Council England for arts and library services, of which £3.5 million has been awarded by DCMS to national charity The Reading Agency, for their Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes
- £2 million to extend the Government’s Loneliness Fund launched in May this year
- £500,000 to be distributed amongst the Audio Content Fund and the Community Radio Fund
The package builds upon the £4 million Local Connections Fund announced last month, which will provide hundreds of small grants to charities and small grassroots organisations – such as book clubs, walking groups and other local projects – that are bringing communities together and reducing social isolation. Applications for the Local Connections Fund will open in early January.
“We are coming to the end of one of the toughest years we have ever had to face and I know that the next few months will be a worry for many people who have felt particularly isolated or lonely during the pandemic. We still have some difficult times to overcome and it is important that we continue to provide support to those most at risk of isolation and loneliness over the next few months.”
– Baroness Barran, Minister for Civil Society
Some of the grants awarded by Arts Council England will be distributed via two existing programmes: Creative People & Places and Celebrating Age, which create opportunities for social connections through arts and cultural spaces in the community. Creative People and Places has achieved over 5 million engagements to date in England. The Celebrating Age programme supports older people to engage with arts and culture as well as encouraging cultural spaces and organisations to be open, positive and welcoming places for older people. It has so far reached over 26,000 people.
DCMS will also be extending the existing Loneliness Grant Fund, to ensure that some of the organisations selected earlier this year can expand their current programmes or reach into new areas. This will help to ensure that these national organisations providing vital support for a wide range of vulnerable people at risk of loneliness, including the elderly, veterans, and people with disabilities, can support even more people. In May nine organisations, including the EFL, RNIB, Alzheimer’s Society and Mind were awarded a share of £5 million to reduce loneliness.
The remaining £500,000 will be distributed via two existing radio funds: the Community Radio Fund (CRF) and the Audio Content Fund (ACF). Around 300 not-for-profit stations, staffed largely by volunteers, broadcast to around a million listeners per week, providing a lifeline to local communities who rely on these stations for up-to-date news and entertainment. These stations have been hit hard by the pandemic, with advertising revenues having dropped significantly. The CRF will provide £200,000 emergency funding to help stations meet the core costs of continuing to provide their vital services.
The Audio Content Fund exists to finance high-quality, public service radio programming for broadcast on UK commercial and community radio. The ACF will receive £300,000 to support the creation of content which will make listeners feel less lonely and connect the vulnerable with their communities this winter. In addition, £600,000 will support small commercial radio stations with their transmission costs, and help secure their futures into the new year.
“Having demonstrated earlier this year how quickly and effectively the UK radio sector was able to mobilise to support its audiences, we are delighted that the UK government has come to us to distribute these funds,” Sam Bailey, Managing Director of The ACF said. “We know the audio production sector and our partners at radio stations will rise to the task, despite the need for a quick turnaround. Radio has always been brilliant at companionship, and we look forward to hearing brilliant ideas for demonstrating this under these circumstances that remain difficult for so many people.”
Over the last three years, the UK Government has been leading the way on tackling loneliness. It created the world’s first Minister for Loneliness and published the world’s first Government loneliness strategy in October 2018, containing 60 commitments from nine Government departments. It launched the first Government fund dedicated to reducing loneliness worth £11.5 million, which is supporting 126 projects to transform the lives of thousands of lonely people across England. The inaugural #LetsTalkLoneliness campaign was launched in June 2019 to help raise awareness and tackle stigma.
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