The Government has pledged a quarter of the cash, £11m of which will form the Building Connections Fund, which will help groups to make the most of local spaces, opening them up for community use, as well as helping business and local services combat isolation.
It will also fund projects that use technology to link those in remote areas and help improve transport connections to make face-to-face contact easier.
Further funding will support and expand existing programmes that are already proving to bring people together.
The fund is part of a pledge by Theresa May in January to accept the recommendations of the year-long Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, which included the appointment of the country’s first ever Minister for Loneliness, Tracey Crouch.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post on the fourth anniversary of its Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign in February, Ms Crouch admitted she faced a “phenomenal” challenge.
On the £20m announcement, she said: “This funding enables us to build on Jo Cox’s legacy and provides support to charities across the country that are fighting against loneliness. It will help improve the lives of people and build a shared society for the future.”
The £20m is made up of £5m each from the Government and Big Lottery Fund, £1m from the Co-operative Foundation - which will form the Building Connections Fund; plus £5m from the People’s Postcode Lottery and £4m from the Health Lottery to top up existing grants and help improve social links in disadvantaged areas respectively.
Mrs Cox’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, on behalf of the Jo Cox Foundation said: “Tackling loneliness was an issue dear to Jo’s heart. She would be so proud to see how much progress has been made in recognising the importance of building stronger and better connected communities to help reduce the terrible damage done by loneliness.”
Mrs May, said the funding would “make a big difference, helping more people to establish and maintain connections”.
She said: “Feeling lonely or isolated can have a profound and devastating impact on people’s lives - it can affect anyone of any age and from any background. But just as loneliness can affect any of us, so any of us can help to overcome it.
“This is just part of Jo Cox’s legacy, and I am determined we continue to take this forward. That’s why we need to do all we can to tackle loneliness, and our forthcoming strategy will build on today’s funding.”
Chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund, Dawn Austwick, said: “As the largest funder of community activity in the country we support thousands of initiatives across the UK each year which enable people to build new friendships and celebrate community spirit. This sits at the heart of the National Lottery and we are delighted to partner with Government and the Co-op to deliver funding that will build a greater sense of belonging and happiness in communities.”
Chair of the Co-op Foundation, Jamie Ward-Smith, said: “The Co-op Foundation is working to connect and empower 5,000 young people to tackle loneliness in their communities. Our new match funding partnership with the Government will help us build on this, extending our network of partners and reaching even more young people. We believe youth loneliness is best tackled at community level, by working with young people to overcome the stigma around this issue and helping them shape their own solutions.”
Clara Govier, managing director of People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “Despite being more digitally connected than ever, we are facing a dire epidemic of loneliness with far reaching consequences for people’s health and mental wellbeing.
“Thanks to grant-giving trusts supported by supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, a £5 million fund has been created to benefit charities working towards more connected communities. This will tackle the issues behind loneliness which affect so many people across Great Britain.’
Chief executive for People’s Health Trust, who distribute funds for the Health Lottery, John Hume, said: “Social connections not only have an impact on reducing the risk of dying younger but they can also help people to recover quicker when they do become ill. That is why it is so important to support marginalised local people and communities to come together and build social links and ties.”
Funding applications for the Building Connections Fund will open from July 2018 with grants available until the end of December 2020.