The £11.5 million Building Connections Fund is a partnership between Government, Big Lottery Fund and the Co-op Foundation which was set up in response to the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness to support projects that prevent or reduce loneliness.
The fund aims to:
- increase social connections, helping people form strong and meaningful relationships and creating a sense of community and belonging, and helping people feel more connected
- support organisations to build on their existing work, eg by reaching more people, or working in a new area or with a different method or group of people
- encourage organisations to join up with others locally
- improve the evidence base and use learning to inform longer term policy and funding decisions.
The fund is split into two strands
All grants will be made by December 2018 and can run until March 2021, by which time all money must be spent. You can apply to both strands, however you cannot receive funding for the same project. We will share information between the strands to ensure we make informed decisions in cases where we have received similar applications.
Main fund strand
The main fund is made up of close to £9 million, which will be distributed by the Big Lottery Fund, making grants of between £30,000 and £100,000. It is open for applications now.
We’re offering funding to organisations with existing projects that are already helping to build connections to prevent or reduce loneliness and want to do more to build on this work. We are interested in funding projects that could reach more people and / or join up with others and include ways of utilising existing expertise in the sector, increasing geographical reach and improving impact.
The Youth strand is made up of £2 million, which will be distributed by the Co-op Foundation, making grants of up to £80,000. It is open for applications now.
The Youth strand is open to organisations with existing youth-focussed activities that could be effective at helping young people avoid long-term loneliness. Successful applicants will receive funding to explore youth loneliness in greater depth, test youth-led innovations within their existing provision, and share their learning as part of a national network. You will be supported to evaluate your activities and capture your impact, which will add to the evidence base.
What we're interested in
We’re interested in funding projects that:
- make the best use of community assets and joining up local services to connect people in different local places, from urban to rural, in the workplace, community hubs or pubs or facilitating social mixing in local buildings, indoor and outdoor spaces, and parks. Or in different ways, using digital or technology, transport and travel, participating in sport or volunteering.
- enable communities to bring people together and build connections, helping people across all ages, who may be more likely to feel lonely, and encouraging those who are at highest risk of loneliness to participate. If you are working specifically with young people, you may be eligible to apply to our Youth Strand of the fund.
- understand more about the individual benefits of preventing loneliness and what works, resulting in benefits to people's health and well being, so that they live longer, healthier, more independent lives and improve their opportunities for employment.
Why is this fund important?
Many people experience loneliness at some point in their lives. The late Jo Cox, a British Labour Party politician, started a conversation about loneliness that inspired Government, third sector, communities and others to celebrate initiatives that bring people together. To build on this, the Prime Minister, in January 2018, publicly committed Government to establish a dedicated Fund to tackle loneliness, as a part of a wider endorsement of the Jo Cox Commission recommendations including publishing a strategy to prevent and reduce loneliness and developing a loneliness indicator. Tracey Crouch MP, the lead Minister for Tackling Loneliness, announced the fund on Tuesday 19 June.
Loneliness is commonly defined as “a subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship. It happens when we have a mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships that we have, and those that we want”. 5% of adults in England reported feeling lonely “often” or “always” between 2016 and 2017 (ONS). Although a number of factors such as age, health, caring responsibilities, neighbourhood and frequency of meeting with family members or friends are found to have an impact on loneliness, these and others can interact in complex ways for different people.
We know that great things can happen when communities are given the tools and the space to come together. Strong relationships and connections between different groups of people, community groups, public services and charities ensure that people get better access to activities in their area, and can prevent them feeling lonely in the longer term. Government has collaborated with the Big Lottery Fund and Co-op Foundation who have collective experience of working with local organisations to reach more people and help build strong, welcoming communities.
As well as supporting more projects, more work is also needed to understand what causes loneliness, who is at risk and why, and how we can work together to best tackle it. With this funding, we have an opportunity to increase public awareness of loneliness and reduce the stigma, and build the capability of voluntary and community organisations in the longer term by building evidence, supporting initiatives to scale up and join up with other local services to reach more people.