More than 17,000 people are being supported by Cambridgeshire Community Foundation into volunteering and opportunities to build social connections, thanks to the Government’s Know Your Neighbourhood Fund.

We have allocated over £1.3 million of funding to create volunteering opportunities and support people experiencing, or at risk of, loneliness in Fenland. This will support over 17,000 people with access to opportunities such as social gatherings, fitness sessions and creative activities.

Along with eight other accredited community foundations from the UK Community Foundations network, we have been supporting a range of projects aimed at tackling loneliness and increasing volunteering.

Recent research has found that those living in the most deprived areas are more likely to report feeling lonely, as well as being less likely to volunteer. Research has also shown that loneliness is closely linked with mental health and wellbeing, and that certain types of volunteering opportunities can help connect communities and help people develop skills and grow their networks.

Civil Society Minister, Stuart Andrew, said:

“Loneliness is something anyone can experience, at any time. We know that volunteering can help people connect, as well as improving mental wellbeing and helping people develop new skills.

“This funding will mean those in some of the most disadvantaged areas across the country are able to volunteer in an area that interests them. From arts groups to skills development workshops, there are thousands of ways for people to get involved, meet new people and try new things.”

Rosemary Macdonald, CEO at UK Community Foundations said:

“Community foundations see the impact of services that tackle loneliness on a daily basis. From urban high streets to rural hamlets, local grassroots organisations remain a valued asset at the heart of community life.

“We are excited about what we can learn and share through the Know Your Neighbourhood Fund to increase volunteering in the future in a sustainable way that brings communities closer together.”

Michael O’Toole, CEO at Cambridgeshire Community Foundation said:

“Fenland is an incredible part of our county with a strong community spirit and pride in its heritage. However, we also know that the region faces some challenges, including health inequalities, when compared to the rest of Cambridgeshire.”

“The Know Your Neighbourhood Fund will support local community projects that build skills, wellbeing, and community networks. It will increase the number of people in Fenland who volunteer, which we hope will contribute to reducing chronic loneliness and building social connections in the community.”

Some of the organisations to benefit from the £1.3 million funding include Fenland Association for Community Transport (FACT), Rosmini Centre Wisbech, The Kite Trust and Ormiston Families.

A total of over £237,000 has been awarded to expand Cambridge Community Arts’ Creative Fenland project, which engages socially isolated people through arts and crafts activities designed for mental wellbeing. The project is also developing a volunteer network to support this work.

Little Miracles Fenland has received over £74,000 to host sessions for Fenland families that have children with additional needs, disabilities, and life-limiting conditions. This allows young people to develop friendships in a safe and controlled way. The parents are also able to meet others in similar situations and provide support for each other. The provision of sessions is supported by volunteers who receive in-depth training and work alongside trained, experienced staff. In the long-term, this will increase what Little Miracles can offer to families living in Fenland, with more trained volunteers available to support sessions.