Strengthen ties in Yorkshire, people in country's loneliness hotspot urge local leaders
A leading think tank has today published a blueprint, and manifesto informed by local people, to improve social connections in Yorkshire and Humber - the loneliness hotspot of England.
Loneliness has risen nationally from 5 per cent to over 7 per cent since the pandemic, but it’s even higher in Yorkshire and Humber where 8 per cent of people – almost 1 in 10 – feel lonely.
Researchers at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), alongside peer and community researchers with lived experience of immigration from Migration Yorkshire, spoke with 70 people from migrant and receiving communities across the region to understand their experiences of living in this loneliness hotspot. They found that:
The cost of living and other stresses are prohibiting people from connecting with their local community: Many are struggling to make ends meet, which reduces their capacity to engage locally. If they are able to engage, the cost of travel and other expenses related to community events are also barriers to getting involved. What’s more, many people in migrant communities are experiencing the stress of navigating the asylum system, fears of racism, and worries about family back home.
People feel locked out of decision-making processes: Researchers found that many people feel that they do not have a stake in how decisions are made about their communities, or don’t hear about opportunities where they do exist.
There are few or no places for many to turn to: People are feeling the effects of community hubs closing, poor transport, and remoteness from opportunities to bring communities together.
But researchers also discovered positive examples of initiatives that strengthen community ties, and made recommendations to build on these local innovations, which include:
Activities that bring people together: Like the Freedom FEASTival in Hull – a project supported by Hull Food Partnership which saw the city host free community feasts where attendees enjoy a meal with a stranger to meet, talk, and enjoy local produce.
Public spaces and infrastructure that works for communities: Like the kindness hub in Todmorden, a community café in the town centre that runs support programmes for people dealing with addiction recovery and offer opportunities for people living locally in the area to develop new skills.
Improved access to education, training and jobs: For example, the Millside Centre Café in Bradford supports refugees and asylum seekers by helping them gain qualifications and work experience in culinary, customer service and catering skills, while sharing their culture through food. This helps them connect with the local community, sharpen their English skills, and build their confidence.
Councils across Yorkshire are today being urged by researchers, migrant, and host community groups to consider how they can strengthen community ties in their area.
Report author and senior research fellow at IPPR, Lucy Mort, said:
“Social connections aren’t simply a ‘nice to have’ – they’re essential for strong, healthy and happy communities. Councils, local businesses and communities are doing what they can, in many parts of Yorkshire, to bring people together. But as the cost of living emergency bites and council budgets are stretched further, and as already insufficient support for people in the immigration system worsens, learning from and finding innovative ways to include everyone – no matter their immigration status - in community life is more important than ever.
Report author and research fellow at IPPR, Amreen Qureshi, said:
“Since the pandemic over a million more people are experiencing loneliness nationally, with refugee, asylum seeking and migrant communities in particular facing specific barriers to social connections. Separated from family and friends and often lacking the time, energy, confidence, or resources to get involved in events and activities – this is a recipe for isolation. It doesn’t have to be this way, it is possible to build strong social connections and reduce loneliness, and our research today is a blueprint to do just that.”
Sandra* from Barnsley said of the impact of cuts to local services:
”There have been so many services cut. Sure Start, family centres, youth club etc… it seems that everything bit by bit is being taken away to a point where there are not many places for people to go now for all ages.”
Younis* from Kirklees said of the impact of a local community Iftar:
"…we had half the side where there was some poetry being read, some school children playing and things, and some talks given, and then on this side we said prayers in the open on a summer’s evening. It was absolutely beautiful. And we had a diverse group of people around us, some people who were not Muslims as well, and I’ve never felt more comfortable or more safe outside saying my prayers.”