Funding to fight loneliness in Devon

By Richard Harding   |   Kingsbridge and Ivybridge reporter   |
Friday 27th May 2022 11:00 am
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A lonely elderly man feeding pigeons from a park bench
The £5-million pound fund has been allocated for pilot projects (Picture: Photo 145150198 © motortion | Dreamstime.com )

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Nationwide almost £5 million has been allocated for pilot projects to understand how transport can be used to alleviate loneliness. Government has partnered with 12 organisations across England to deliver pilot projects targeting people who are most at risk of loneliness

The projects will be evaluated to develop an evidence base for how transport policies can reduce the number of people feeling lonely. Funding has been awarded to 12 organisations across England with the aim of understanding how transport can play a role in helping people who are feeling lonely.

Pilot projects receiving a share of the £5 million funding include support for older people using public transport after the pandemic, autism awareness training for staff across the transport network and a group electric cycling scheme.

Millions of people across the nation are struggling with feelings of loneliness, which were exacerbated by the pandemic.

The Government is committed to tackling loneliness, including through building the evidence base for what can alleviate this problem.

Findings from the pilots will be used to inform how future transport schemes can contribute to reducing loneliness in communities.

Devon County Council will use a variety of support aimed at over-55’s and young people aged 16-24. It includes the use of travel trainers to help passengers gain confidence in using public transport, introducing a travel buddy system with on-board support from staff and volunteers, driver training initiatives, launching a community grants fund in areas with limited or no public transport services. Andrea Davis, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport said: “Loneliness is unfortunately something that can affect us all and is all too prevalent in society today.

“This funding will enable us to roll out a number of innovative schemes that will provide targeted support across Devon.

“Our pilot programme is designed to help combat loneliness in Devon through transport opportunities and try to make life a little brighter for residents.

“Transport is often forgotten about when implementing new ideas or programmes to help people, and sometimes also seen as a barrier to participation.

“We believe our initiatives will help our target audiences of the elderly and young adults, and also reach deeper into communities to help identify those who really need support.

”Community Rail Network secured funding for their Engaging Young People through Community Rail scheme.

The project plans to develop an innovative approach to engaging young people to tackle loneliness with three pilots led by community rail partnerships.

Each pilot will work closely with small groups of young people to build skills and confidence in public transport.

The scheme’s broader aims are to work with youth services to break down mobility barriers and widen youth engagement with rail.

Jools Townsend, Chief Executive of Community Rail Network, said: “We’re thrilled our initiative has received the backing of the Tackling Loneliness with Transport Fund. Experience in community rail, and among youth organisations, suggests that independent, confident access to transport can have a transformative effect on young people’s lives.

“We’re looking forward to working with a leading academic and coordinating pilots in three locations to develop participatory, empowering approaches to involving young people with rail and other sustainable transport links.

“We know this can widen access to opportunity, raise aspirations and create a sense of connectedness, which is doubly crucial post-pandemic.”

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