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Funding has today (23 May) 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.

Minister Baroness Vere said:

“Loneliness affects millions of people across the UK. Transport can help us solve this problem by connecting us to people, places, and experiences.

“Congratulations to the organisations that secured funding for their proposals. This is a great opportunity to improve future transport schemes and shape the national conversation on loneliness.

“We will continue to work closely with transport providers and community groups to build an inclusive and accessible transport network.”

Living Streets secured funding for their Walking Connects scheme. This project will encourage walking every day. It will focus on two initiatives: encouraging walking as a social activity, and tackling barriers to walking such as accessing social locations. The accessibility of streets will be assessed, identifying barriers to walking for older people and suggesting improvements.

Stephen Edwards, CEO of Living Streets, said:

 “Walking and wheeling help improve mental and physical wellbeing, tackle depression and anxiety, and connect us with our world and those around us. They offer a free, easy and accessible solution to the debilitating impacts of loneliness. 

“We are delighted to have been awarded funding from the Tackling Loneliness with Transport Fund during National Walking Month to work with older people in more deprived locations at greater risk of experiencing loneliness. We can’t wait to get started on demonstrating the impact the simple act of walking can have on improving wellbeing and quality of life. “

Age UK’s Travelling Companions scheme will involve volunteers across England encouraging and supporting older people to reconnect with their communities, including using public transport again, after the prolonged period of enforced isolation caused by the pandemic.

Hannorah Lee, Director of Partnerships at Age UK, said:

“Age UK is delighted to have been awarded funding from the Tackling Loneliness With Transport Fund. Around 1.2 million older people in the UK often feel lonely[i], which can have a devastating impact on their mental and physical health, and the pandemic made the situation worse.

“Age UK’s Travelling Companions scheme will help significant numbers of older people to get back on public transport and go out and about once more. Best of all, it will have lasting benefits for them, improving their quality of life and supporting them to feel part of their communities again.”