The head of Neighbourhood Prayer Network is urging churches to apply for funding from a pot of almost 30 million pounds to help tackle loneliness in their communities.
The money from the 'Know Your Neighbourhood Fund' is being allocated to local authorities in 27 of the most disadvantaged areas in England. The government is launching it in partnership with The National Lottery Community Fund, Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England and UK Community Foundations (UKCF).
It's aimed at increasing the number of projects which help improve wellbeing and social connections.
Carl Brettle, CEO of Neighbourhood Prayer Network, has been speaking to Premier Christian News about the scheme: "I'm really glad the government decided to focus on areas of deprivation in areas of greatest need. If you are a charitable organisation or a community organisation to apply for funding you'll have to go to your local authority and not to central government.
"This could be great for some church groups. If they are already set up as charities, they might be able to apply for that funding and help maximise what they're already doing in their communities.
"If you can prove that you're actually tackling loneliness, maybe through a coffee morning or regularly taking a group of people out for a day, then I think you've got a chance to gain some funding. You will have to consider what is the best thing that could be done to tackle isolation and loneliness in society and come up with the best idea you can think of.
"Whether you're a church group or a Christian charity, or any other charity, make a submission, you've got nothing to lose!"
Recent research has revealed that adults are more likely to report feeling lonely if they live in a deprived area and that areas with higher unemployment rates tend to have higher rates of loneliness.
Rosemary Macdonald, CEO of UK Community Foundations, said:
"Loneliness can impact anyone at any time in any community, and the work of voluntary organisations to reduce isolation and loneliness has been in higher demand since the pandemic.
"The Know Your Neighbourhood Fund has enabled community foundations to provide vital support to initiatives that encourage impactful volunteering and community connectivity in some of the country's most vulnerable areas. Over the next three years, the insights we learn will help us to understand the issues impacting volunteering and social inclusion, and we're so grateful to the government for this opportunity."
Details of how to apply for funding can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/29-million-know-your-neighbourhood-fund-confirmed/applying-for-government-funding