People across the country are predicting rising pressure on local community-run services due to the impact of the cost-of-living, according to the National Lottery Community Fund’s latest Community Research Index.
Eight in ten (81%) of the 8,968 people surveyed said their local food banks are likely to face an increase in demand, and three in four predict an increase in need for debt advice and support (77%) and mental health charities and services (75%).
The National Lottery Community Fund conducts the survey annually to find out how people feel about their communities, and how it needs to respond.
Cost-of-living concerns have had a big impact on people’s perceptions of priorities for the year ahead. Over half (55%) say that supporting people with this is most important for the wellbeing of their local community, rising to over six in ten women (61%).
Reducing isolation and loneliness (53%), and people caring and looking out for each other (50%) are also seen as important, with slightly more people (49%) intending to volunteer in the year ahead (up from 46% last year). Food banks are most likely to receive a helping hand, with 42% of those who intend to help out or volunteer mentioning them.
Seven in ten (69%) 18 to 24-year-olds say they intend to volunteer in 2023.
More people – 74% across the UK – said they feel a sense of connection to their local community, rising from 69% in 2020. Feeling part of the community is also growing in value, with 69% saying it is important to them, compared to 62% two years ago.
When thinking of their community’s physical environment, people identify safety on the streets (70%), keeping the area looking nice (62%) and young people having places to go and things to do (61%) as local priorities this year.
David Knott, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund, said:
“It’s clear that the year ahead is set to be dominated by cost-of-living concerns and this is going to be as much a priority for communities as it is for individuals. Despite the challenges and hardships people are facing, it’s clear that the UK’s sense of community holds strong and even more people, particularly the younger generation, feel motivated to help others out.
“We are listening to communities and the groups we fund and are responding flexibly to their needs. We understand the pressures and expect to commit over £75 million in funding to support on cost-of-living throughout the next year. We are also undergoing a Strategy Renewal process to ensure that our funding and support for communities is fit-for-purpose in the years to come.”
Jane Johnson from Random Café in Watford, which receives support from The National Lottery Community Fund, said:
“It is no surprise supporting people through the cost-of-living is a priority for next year. We have seen an increase in customers struggling and using Random Café to cover their weekly shop as we offer food on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis because we believe everyone should have access to food.
“We believe that being part of the community is particularly important, which may explain the increased volunteer intentions. We have volunteers of all ages who are eager to give back to the community. People see it as an opportunity to keep the area looking nice and interact with others, but for some it’s part of their recovery from mental health challenges. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have a community garden which gives people access to green space and a warm meeting place with events to bring people of all ages together.”