Over 10,000 people to benefit from local funding in Barrow to tackle loneliness

21st November 2023

More than 10,000 Barrovians are being supported by Cumbria Community Foundation into volunteering and opportunities to build social connections thanks to the Government’s Know Your Neighbourhood Fund.

Over £1.1 million has been allocated by Cumbria Community Foundation to create high-quality volunteering opportunities and support for people experiencing, or at risk of loneliness in Barrow.

Furness for You is an exciting new partnership of community-led activities which aims to improve wellbeing and increase social connection to reduce loneliness. The partnership received £960,831 to offer a varied programme, from creative activities to group events and one-to-one support as well as volunteering opportunities.

Led by Groundwork NE & Cumbria, partners include Age UK Barrow, Brathay Trust, Barrow Leisure Centre, Barrow & District Disability Association, Cumbria CVS, Furness Multicultural Forum, the Poverty Truth Commission, StitchAbility and Women’s Community Matters. By working together, there will be no wrong door for anyone seeking support.

Groundwork North East & Cumbria representative Craig Drummond, said: “We are delighted that the money has been released for this crucial programme. Loneliness and isolation are devastating and sadly impact many people in the community. As a partnership we will build confidence and be a first step for many people to access an umbrella of services under one name, Furness for You, to ensure people receive the right support at the right time for their mental and physical wellbeing.”

A further grant of £210,502 was awarded to Cumbria Wildlife Trust to deliver The Bay, a nature and wellbeing project helping local residents combat loneliness and isolation by connecting with the outdoors. The Bay supports communities not only in Barrow but also in Wyre and Morecambe in Lancashire. Small group wellbeing sessions are at the core of provision, but it also offers a range of larger community events to engage with a wide range of people and connect into the Furness for You partnership.

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Yolanda Aze, Community Engagement Officer for The Bay said: “We’re hugely grateful to Cumbria Community Foundation for their support with this important work. Reconnecting with nature can have a really positive impact on people’s wellbeing. Taking time to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the seaside, together, is a well-known method of helping combat depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. By helping people to immerse themselves in outdoor activities, such as guided walks, rock pooling, beach cleans and art, our project is benefitting the communities of Barrow, while also helping to support and alleviate some of the stresses on our NHS and also enable people to take action to help nature. Thanks to Cumbria Community Foundation, we’ll be able to continue providing this support for people in Barrow who may benefit from it.”

Since The Bay started in September 2021, over 5,600 people in Barrow have engaged with the programme and 242 people have been referred to The Bay’s nature and wellbeing sessions in Barrow. The programme as a whole has proved very popular, with nearly 13,000 people across all three areas (Barrow, Fylde and Morecambe) getting involved, and a total of 576 people have been referred to nature and wellbeing sessions.

Cumbria Community Foundation, along with eight other accredited community foundations from the UKCF network have previously supported a range of projects aimed at tackling loneliness and increasing volunteering during the first phase of the programme.

Annalee Holliday, Head of Grants Practice & Programmes, said: “Barrow is a vibrant and growing town with lots of great volunteering networks and community activities on offer. The Know Your Neighbourhood Fund is a chance to build on that success, share learning, work in partnership, and really make a difference in people’s lives.

“The fund has given a wide range of organisations the opportunity to reach more people and boost volunteering, strengthen the great communities in the town and improve wellbeing for everyone.”

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.”