UK Launches Loneliness StrategyFri 19 Oct 2018
Minister Tracey Crouch admitted loneliness may have been made ‘inadvertently’ worse by funding cuts. This week’s article looks at whether its measures will address loneliness through the built environment.
What is the loneliness strategy?
The vision for the strategy is create a place where we can all have strong social relationships. Where families, friends and communities support each other, especially at vulnerable points where people are at greater risk of loneliness.
- to improve the evidence base to better understand what causes loneliness
- to embed loneliness as a consideration across government policy
- to build a national conversation on loneliness, to raise awareness of its impacts and to help tackle stigma.
Government considers loneliness can be improved through access to community space, parks and green spaces and transport. Access to community space – both buildings and outdoor space – was a frequent theme in responses to government’s call for evidence on loneliness. Respondents also highlighted transport, as well as the impact of good neighbourhood planning and housing design. The following actions have been outlined:
Parks and green spaces: £500,000 of new funding is pledged to kick start the Parks Action Group's work in promoting the value of green spaces, helping them bring together communities now and in the future.
Transport: the intention is to work with the transport sector to highlight the importance of accessible and inclusive transport.
School spaces: Government is encouraging schools to open up their spaces for community initiatives. Is this an echo of the Extended Schools Programme from the early 2000s? Lacking funding, it is difficult to see how our embattled schools, many already forced to employ professional fundraisers, will be able to offer community spaces for free.
Community space: DCMS is providing up to £1.8 million to help local people maximise the potential of underutilised community spaces. It strives to place community at the heart of housing design developments and planning by embedding it in planning and design frameworks and by researching how community-led housing could reduce loneliness.
Tackling loneliness is important and government's acknowledgment of the built environment's role in this strategy is positive. But we need to better understand the causes. Funding is limited and often goes towards funding other organisations to co-ordinate action. Why not direct them to local government rather than towards creating new networks? The strategy offers some ideas and strategies, but nothing concrete and it seems unlikely to have much impact.
Let the last word go to LGA’s Ian Hudspeth, who welcoming the strategy said "It’s essential that these services which are already under pressure are able to cope with demand – £1.8 million will not be enough to ensure these services can do that, so it’s essential they are fully resourced as well".
Cover image: Sarah Lee for the Guardian
Until next week. Please make sure to send in your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Jane Briginshaw, Design England