During the cost of living crisis less than half of UK adults say people are pulling together in their communities, new data shows.
New research out today (29 June) reports that less than half of all UK adults (46%) believe that people are pulling together to improve their neighbourhoods. Only a similar number of us are exchanging favours (45%) with neighbours, despite the current cost of living crisis putting strain on household budgets including rises in rent or mortgages, fuel and food costs.
Eden Project Communities, who are one of the partners behind the Month of Community in June to encourage people to make local connections and support good causes, conducted the research to explore attitudes towards neighbourliness. It is part of a year-round programme of work focusing on building social capital on a mass scale delivered by Eden Project Communities and made possible by The National Lottery.
Lindsey Brummitt, Eden Project Communities Programme Director said: “This research tells us that people participating in their communities is out of step with the benefits people feel when they have strong local connections. The data hints that activities like good old fashioned neighbourliness practiced during the pandemic may be starting to re-emerge, but there is a big opportunity for many people who are not nurturing local support networks which could help them cope better during in the cost of living crisis.”
The nationally representative independent research conducted in the second two weeks in May 2023 also found that 65% agree where they live is friendly, and our sense of belonging to our immediate neighbourhood has actually increased by five percentage points since 2019 to 67% in 2023. An even higher number (74%) also say that they trust their neighbours and feel safe (71%) in their neighbourhoods.
Furthermore, of those who had a Big Lunch to bring people together where they live in 2023, 81% said that their event had a positive impact on their community, and 75% said they are now more likely to give their time to help neighbours or good causes.
After reaching out to their neighbours, people in all parts of the UK have felt the benefits of forging stronger connections with others where they live.
Emma Knight lives in Neath, where she helped to establish a thriving community centre that supports people of all ages. Reflecting on the change in her local area, she said: “Our community is now unrecognisable from what it was 14 years ago. People know there’s always someone they can call if they have a problem and we don’t have any age barriers here now – our volunteers range from our five-year-old litter picker to a 90 year old chair-based fitness instructor!”
Reaching out, making local connections and new neighbourhood friendships is something that Eden Project Communities, and other organisations behind the Month of Community support. Approximately 27.6 million adults in the UK say they feel lonely often, always or some of the time, up by five percentage points to 40% in 2023 compared to 35% in 2019.
Earlier in June, Month of Community ambassador Comedian John Bishop paid a visit to space2grow in Farnham, Surrey – a project that held a Big Lunch to celebrate their neighbourhood connections and invited John to unveil a new Say Hello friendly bench during Loneliness Awareness Week and The Great Big Green Week. The bench now creates a place where people can stop in a green space to chat and make new friends.
Reflecting on his visit to space2grow and the Month of Community John Bishop said: “I’m really proud that Say Hello is part of the Month of Community, when I hope people up and down the country will maybe have a Big Lunch or just take the time to get chatting to people in their community. Let’s all put some welly into making connections, supporting each other and the causes we care about during the Month of Community. Appreciating the power of community and the warmth of human connections impresses upon me just how important this really is!”
The Month of Community is an annual partnership of good causes in June, when people are encouraged to come together to celebrate everyone and everything that make our communities great. With events and initiatives running throughout June for causes such as Volunteers Week, Carers Week, The Great Big Green Week, Refugee Week and Small Charity Week, it’s a chance to connect with neighbours, say cheers to volunteers, raise awareness of loneliness or simply say thank you. As part of the Month of Community, The Big Lunch is a chance for people to bring their community together, fundraise or celebrate a good cause they care about.
In Wales, people have joined many others across the country to take part in the Month of Community. In Hay on Wye, carers charity Credu organised a very special event at Hay Castle, where carers had the chance to come together to share stories and make new connections. Organised as part of Carers Week, the event also doubled up as a book launch for You Are The Medicine, a collection of stories from carers who share their first-hand experiences caring for loved ones, people with disabilities and those with terminal illnesses.
Jenny O’Hara Jakeway, CEO at Credu, said: “It was fantastic to come together this Carers Week and hear about personal experiences of living with autism and the amazing difference loving relationships make. We had the brilliant Meltem Arıkan with us, an author and Turkish political exile who wants to shine a light on extraordinary carers in Wales, and were also treated to stunning performance poetry and literally edge of seat story telling from extraordinarily talented people.”
Lindsey Brummitt continued: “While almost half of the UK is showing signs of being community minded in this research, we know getting to know neighbours helps to create support networks which makes life better and helps when things are tough – so it’s definitely worth taking a step in that direction if you are not. We need to be vigilant about strengthening and investing time in our neighbourhood relationships and during the Month of Community, there are so many opportunities and good causes you could look out for and support to help build your connections. We want to help people build their communities, so as well as The Big Lunch and Month of Community each year in June, we’re going to keep working on ideas to boost community spirit all year round – look out for updates at edenprojectcommunities.com!”
To find out more go to www.monthofcommunity.com or www.TheBigLunch.com. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @edencommunities