Volunteering boost for charities, libraries and museums

Volunteering boost for charities, libraries and museums for disadvantaged areas

  • Arts Council England, UK Community Foundations and Historic England funding 167 organisations to create additional volunteering activities across the country
  • From Halton to Hartlepool, 27 most disadvantaged areas receive £13 million Government funding for arts groups, charities and artist-led workshops   
  • Additional £4.1 million awarded to help entrepreneurs kick start social enterprises and support local communities

More than 15,000 people are being supported into volunteering and given opportunities to build social connections in libraries, museums, arts organisations and charities thanks to Government investment.

Up to £30 million is being provided through the Government’s Know Your Neighbourhood Fund to create volunteering opportunities and support those experiencing or at risk of chronic loneliness. Funding will support volunteers and participants to take part in activities such as talking cafes, skills sharing sessions, arts and crafts groups and environmental conservation. 

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."

Over £10 million has been allocated by UK Community Foundations (UKCF) to create high quality volunteering opportunities and support people experiencing, or at risk of loneliness in Wolverhampton, South Tyneside, Kingston-Upon-Hull, Blackpool, Stoke-On-Trent, Great Yarmouth, Fenland, County Durham, and Barrow-in-Furness. This will support over 10,000 people with access to opportunities such as befriending services, parent and toddler groups, lunch clubs and gardening activities.  

Nearly £3 million is being distributed on behalf of Government by Arts Council England via partners Libraries Connected, Creative Lives and the Association of Independent Museums to create more than 1,000 volunteering opportunities and support more than 4,000 people experiencing, or at risk of, chronic loneliness. Opportunities will be focused in libraries, museums and voluntary arts groups, with activities including ‘reading for wellbeing’ groups, musical performances and artist-led workshops. 

Historic England has also distributed nearly £500,000 to support programmes being delivered on eleven high streets in Barnsley, Blackpool, Barrow, Burnley, Hull, Middlesbrough, Stalybridge, Wednesbury, Stoke, Great Yarmouth and Ramsgate. 350 volunteers will be supported to take part in cultural activities that help people feel proud of where they live and connected to their local community, such as history-based volunteering workshops and drop-in meeting spaces for those experiencing loneliness. 

Some of the organisations to benefit from the £13 million include:

  • Rooted in Hull, an urban farm in the centre of Hull, has been awarded over £54,000 through UKCF to create a two year ‘Gather and Grow’ project to encourage regular volunteering. Funding will mean the project can employ two more staff and put on volunteer sessions three days a week, offering a more structured project. 
  • Skool of Street has been awarded a grant of over £75,000 through UKCF to run a new volunteer-led LGBTQ+ project across various wards in Blackpool. Open four days a week, it will offer a range of activities from live music and artist-led workshops to dance, yoga and creative writing. 
  • In South Tyneside, a grant of £79,000 via Libraries Connected will allow its libraries to run two projects: Walking for Wellbeing and Reading for Wellbeing. Funding will be used to run a walking group at each of the borough’s four libraries, as well as appointing a Reading for Wellbeing Community worker to establish connections between local residents in the most deprived wards.
  • Wolverhampton Arts and Culture (WAC) will work with Strengthening Families Hubs, which provide support and activities for families, to deliver a series of arts for wellbeing programmes inspired by objects and artworks in its collection. The project will be funded by a grant of £94,000 awarded through the Association of Independent Museums, aiming to reduce loneliness through creative sessions delivered by community artists for isolated parents. 
  • North East Opera in Middlesbrough has been awarded £20,000 via Creative Lives for its My Great Folk project, which will bridge social divides and help create a sense of community. The project will bring together Middlesbrough locals, as well as those new to the area, to create a 30-minute Folk opera to be performed at the Shine Festival. The opera will draw on individuals’ stories and songs, aiming to bring people together through rehearsal and performance. 

Rosemary Macdonald, CEO, 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."

The Government is also supporting social enterprises with funding of up to £4.1 million via the Social Enterprise Boost Fund. Social enterprises use the majority of their profits to further a social or environmental mission, from community healthcare providers to retailers providing employment opportunities for the homeless. 

Allocated in County Durham, Sandwell, South Tyneside, Sunderland, Thanet and Wolverhampton, the Fund aims to grow the social enterprise sector in disadvantaged areas by supporting organisations in their early stages. Up to £1.45 million will be delivered as grants of up to £10,000 to help kickstart or grow social enterprises, supporting the development of innovative ideas to tackle issues in local areas. 

Alongside this, £2.3 million will be used to accelerate social enterprise activity through business support, training, networking, one-to-one support and peer learning, such as ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitching opportunities. 

The Fund aims to build the evidence on what works to grow social enterprises in disadvantaged areas, and share learning on their unique contribution to local communities and economies.   

The Government has also today announced plans to commission further research into loneliness to help develop our understanding of why disabled young people are at greater risk of loneliness, and develop policy that can be implemented to best support them.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport
The Rt Hon Stuart Andrew MP