In 2018, we were asked to lead the learning and evaluation partnership for the Building Connections Fund, an £11.5 million joint initiative by the government, the National Lottery Community Fund and the Co-Op Foundation to reduce loneliness.
We gathered evidence to improve the evidence base on loneliness, which will be used to inform longer term policy and funding decisions. Our partnership supported grant holders with evaluation through a programme of online guidance, workshops, and tailored assistance.
We conducted a Developmental Evaluation of the grant-holders’ post-Covid 19 response to learn from the current situation and capture emerging findings. This included:
- Supporting grant-holders and the wider sector to learn from the data collected and improve their service provision.
- Working closely with a small group of grant holders in a focused and supportive way to understand what they are doing, how they have adapted and what they have been working on to reduce or prevent loneliness.
Our final evaluation papers have been published here on gov.uk.
While everyone occasionally feels lonely, chronic loneliness—feeling often or always lonely—affects around 6% of England’s population. Loneliness can significantly impact health, and is linked to a greater risk of illnesses such as stroke and depression, as well as poor performance at work or school.
The Building Connections Fund was established in response to the recommendations of the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission. It aimed to:
- Support people to form strong and meaningful relationships.
- Support organisations tackling loneliness to build on their existing work, and to join up with other local organisations.
- Improve the evidence base on loneliness to inform long-term policy and funding decisions.
126 voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations were given grants in December 2018, with most scheduled to last for two years (although many were extended due to the pandemic). Grant holder organisations ran a variety of activities designed to tackle loneliness, ranging from befriending programmes, to arts and leisure activities, to advice and signposting services.