Know Your Neighbourhood Fund: Government launches £29million package to tackle loneliness

Pat Jopson is 100 years old and widowed, her family live on the other side of the country.

She is one of the 25% of adults in the UK who experience loneliness.

The government is launching a £29million package to tackle loneliness across England.

The "Know Your Neighbourhood Fund" is designed to widen participation in volunteering in 27 disadvantaged areas across England.

Lyndsey Stark's job is in HR but has volunteered with Age UK for the past six years.

She was matched to Pat and visits her once a week at her flat in north London to keep her company.

"Pat says it gives her something to look forward to which is really nice, she says every Tuesday there's something to focus on and somebody to talk to and really listen.

"It's amazing to think some people have nobody all day and perhaps sit in day-in and day-out and can't get out of the house."

While loneliness is often associated with old age, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest young people feel particularly isolated.

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According to ONS data, 36% of 16 to 29-year-olds say they experience loneliness "often, always or some of the time".

For those over the age of 70, it is 16%.

People with disabilities are also more likely to struggle with loneliness.

While community groups and charities may welcome the government's new fund, not everyone is convinced that recruiting more volunteers will tackle the underlying issues which come with loneliness.

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Neil Shah, the Director of the Stress Management Society, said: "Until we can start looking at chronic loneliness as part of the mental health spectrum, we're going to find that this may put provision in place, and these initiatives may reach some people, but it may not tackle the underlying issue.

"Also, people are highly unlikely to put their hand up and ask for support until it's already too late."

The Know Your Neighbourhood Fund will run until March 2025.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is hoping for long-term results.

It said: "A key focus of the programme will be to generate and share learning on how people in disadvantaged areas can be supported to volunteer and improve their social connections, which will help to support sustained action beyond the lifetime of the fund."