Yorkshire leading the way in tackling loneliness as new fund announced

Grassroots projects in Yorkshire are proving their value in tackling loneliness, as the minister responsible for ridding the country of the epidemic announced a multi-million pound fund.

Baroness Diana Barran. Photo: UK Parliament
Baroness Diana Barran. Photo: UK Parliament

Minister for Civil Society Baroness Diana Barran singled out a project in Compton Road Library in Leeds, where two people who were long-term unemployed were being trained as baristas, as she said these were the groups which made a difference to those who had no one to turn to.

A study by The Co-op and the British Red Cross revealed more than nine million people were always or often lonely.

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And a campaign was launched by The Yorkshire Post in 2014 with two main aims, for loneliness to be universally recognised as a health priority and to encourage our readers to volunteer for support services.

Since, a ministerial position looking closely at loneliness has been created and last year the Government launched a loneliness strategy.

On its first anniversary it was announced there would be a new fund to help organisations at the frontline of tackling loneliness across the country.

It aims to help grassroots organisations - covering community groups, activities and events - build links with other local groups, raise awareness and help address loneliness within their communities by bringing local people together and making connections.

The fund will be worth £2m.

Baroness Barran said: “On a personal level, I'm certainly aware of members of my family having been extremely lonely at different times and my mother was a refugee in this country.

“When she came here, she ended up working for the War Office but she did a degree at night at the London School of Economics. On her first Christmas she didn't know a soul in London, so she sat in the LSE library on her own, and she just sat there in tears all day.

“I've definitely had times where I felt extremely lonely and it's a very paralysing thing, even if your rational brain says you know lots of people, you’ve got a huge family, you’ve got friends, actually in the moment there are all sorts of other voices saying could be like this forever? And that's a scary thing.”

Baroness Barran said The Yorkshire Post had “led the way” in raising the conversation about loneliness and she said: “I think the Government's role is to be a catalyst but let other people take up the running.”

She added: “So the idea here is to really underline how amazing this ultra local work is, I think is the thing that gets you out of your house is the fact that your neighbour is doing it and says ‘would you like to come along with me?’.

“It's not a Government campaign saying this is good for you today. But also to do it in a way that is a kind of celebration of what's happening and raises awareness locally.

“Some people say I love baking I didn't even know there was a baking group or, I used to go to the library, I stopped going but now I know there's a community cafe in there I might have another crack.

“I met the most wonderful old boy the other day, he was 90, he'd been running art classes in the village for 40 years, which were absolutely full - it wasn't just a couple of people and really had amazing art being produced.

“All those things are the glue that holds communities together are going on all over the place.”

Further details on the funding application process, including eligibility, will follow in due course.