DCT receives £98,900 for project to tackle rural isolation

Published on 28th January 2019

Independent charity Devon Communities Together has received £98,900 from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest community funder in the UK, for a new project to support older people (aged 55+) living in rural areas of Devon who are at risk of isolation and loneliness.

The funding has been awarded following a successful bid for a slice of the Building Connections Fund, a partnership between Government, The National Lottery Community 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 Devon HIGHLIGHTS project will be led by Devon Communities Together and is the result of a partnership bid with members of the Devon Senior Voice Network, The Creativity Centre Educational Trust (CCET) and Ageing Without Children. It aims to improve the quality of life and physical and mental wellbeing of its participants and will support the start-up and sustainable development of new, local place–based group activities that respond to the needs and desires of local participants. New HIGHLIGHTS groups will be developed and supported across six target communities in rural Devon. Each group will be supported to hold fortnightly half-day group sessions, each developing community projects of participants’ choice. Grants of up to £200 per group will be available to fund group activities and it is anticipated that over the life of the project (January 2019 – December 2020) that 200 people will directly benefit from Devon HIGHLIGHTS and a further 200 will benefit indirectly from the community activities and projects the groups create.

Elaine Cook, Chief Executive, Devon Communities Together, said: “We’re thrilled to have been successful with this bid, particularly as we are one of only three Rural Community Councils in the country to receive funding, which highlights the huge level of interest in this fund. Loneliness in rural areas is an important issue that many of our communities face and thanks to funding from Her Majesty’s Government and National Lottery Players we hope to make a real contribution to tackling a problem that’s so prevalent in Devon. 

“Estimates suggest that around 20% of those aged 65 and over experience mild loneliness with a further 8-10% experiencing intense loneliness, which equate to around 38,000 older people experiencing mild loneliness in Devon, and a further 15,000 to 19,000 experiencing intense loneliness. As well as creating the groups and community activities, we also aim to help public understanding of the causes of loneliness and, through joint working, find out how community organisations can reach out to and help those feeling lonely.”

Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Loneliness can affect anyone, young or old. Across the country, this money will enable organisations to deliver activities ranging from rural rambling groups and community cafes, to walking football sessions and a social media platform for care leavers. Whatever the focus of the project, they all aim to help people make new connections that boost wellbeing and help to reduce feelings of loneliness.

“We’re proud to work with DCMS and the Co-op Foundation to support this important work. It’s wonderful to see funding raised by National Lottery players supporting a wide range of community-led activity that will reduce social isolation.”

Devon Communities Together is an independent charity engaged in a wide range of projects, services and funding opportunities that support its vision of dynamic Devon communities shaping their own futures. The charity has over 55 years’ experience of community development work and a wealth of expertise in engaging with communities to help them resolve and progress the matters that are important to them. To find out more about Devon HIGHLIGHTS, please contact Dawn Eckhart by emailing dawn@devoncommunities.org.uk or calling 01392 248919. 

Image on right shows older people from another Creativity Centre project, The Merry Widows project.