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The UK government announced £7.5m ($10m) funding today to tackle loneliness during winter months, as it acknowledged that stricter regulations to curb the spread of the coronavirus will mean more people will find themselves alone this Christmas.
Over the weekend, UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced stricter COVID-19 measures in London, the South East and East of England amid concerns about the spread of a new strain of the virus which may be up to 70% more transmissible.
He introduced a fourth tier of coronavirus restrictions in the regions, as well as unveiling tighter plans around households gathering during Christmas.
“Following the recent news about the Tier 4 measures and with more people finding themselves alone this Christmas, this funding package will help provide immediate and targeted relief to those most at risk,” the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said in a statement.
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The money will be given to sectors that the government said can bring people and communities together such as the arts, libraries, charities and radio.
It added that the money be a “lifeline” to cultural organisations, charities and local community groups who are delivering much-needed work to ensure no one feels isolated in their local community.
The funding will be distributed via existing schemes. £5m will go to Arts Council England for arts and library services, of which £3.5m has been awarded to national charity The Reading Agency.
A further £2m will go to the government’s Loneliness Fund launched in May this year and £500,000 will be distributed amongst the Audio Content Fund and the Community Radio Fund.
The package builds upon the £4m Local Connections Fund announced earlier this month, which will provide hundreds of small grants to charities and small grassroots organisations - such as book clubs, walking groups and other local projects.
Baroness Barran, minister for civil society, noted that 2020 has been “one of the toughest years we have ever had to face and I know that the next few months will be a worry for many people who have felt particularly isolated or lonely during the pandemic.”
“We still have some difficult times to overcome and it is important that we continue to provide support to those most at risk of isolation and loneliness over the next few months,” she added.
DCMS will also be extending the existing Loneliness Grant Fund, so some of the organisations selected earlier this year can expand their current programmes into new areas.
It wants to ensure national organisations providing vital support for vulnerable people at risk of loneliness, including the elderly, veterans, and people with disabilities, can expand their services.
Today’s announcement builds on previous work by the government to reduce loneliness during the pandemic. It said over £24m of a £750m charity funding package has gone directly towards reducing loneliness, and a further £45m to organisations supporting people with their mental health.
In June DCMS also relaunched its long-running campaign, Let’s Talk Loneliness.
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