2024: Community spirit shines in UK communities as they prepare for year ahead

As the UK heads into 2024, new research from The National Lottery Community Fund – the largest community funder in the UK – reveals that people’s sense of community spirit and desire to support others is in good health across all four corners of the UK.

Seven in ten (72%) say it’s important to them to feel part of their local community, and six in ten (59%) say community spirit is strong where they live. Encouragingly, many (61%) say they feel part of their local community, with all the benefits that this entails.

These include feeling safer (59%), having more awareness of what is happening (58%) and a greater sense of belonging (55%) in their local area. Others rate the opportunity it provides to build friendships and connections, with 45% saying that having an opportunity to meet people is a benefit of being part of their community.

A majority (64%) are willing to work with others to improve their local community, but only around half feel they have the opportunity (52%) or ability to play a role (46%).

Despite this, half (50%) of UK adults intend to take part in local volunteering activities (formal and informal) in 2024 – with one in ten (14%) planning to volunteer for the first time.

Among those who intend to volunteer this year, food banks (30%), the environment (30%), supporting older people (29%) and working at charity shops (29%) are where they plan to focus their community-minded efforts.

The findings come from The National Lottery Community Fund’s latest Community Research Index, an annual survey of over 8,000 people across the UK that finds out how people feel about their local community, and what their ambitions and priorities are for their community both longer-term and in the year ahead.

When it comes to the wellbeing of their local community, dealing with the impact of the cost of living remains people’s top priority in 2024. Three quarters (76%) predict continued rising demand for local food banks in the year ahead, along with greater local need for debt advice (71%), mental health support (70%) and housing charities (63%). This makes it even more important that community spirit and people’s involvement and desire to volunteer remain strong.

Looking to the longer-term future and people’s aspirations for their community, a third of UK adults (32%) identify reduced poverty and deprivation as among the top three changes they would like to see for the next generation.

The National Lottery Community Fund has four key missions, which are to support communities to come together, be environmentally sustainable, help children and young people thrive and enable people to live healthier lives. The funder takes an equity-based approach to its work, investing most in places, people and communities experiencing poverty, disadvantage and discrimination.

David Knott, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “It’s clear that 2024 will be another year where communities pull together to tackle shared challenges and to support each other. A continued sense of community spirit and belonging, and a desire to be involved (including volunteering) are welcome bright spots that set the tone for the year ahead.

“Local people know what their community needs and have the passion, energy and know-how to make it happen. This year they will have even more grassroots funding support as we have doubled the amount and term of our small grants programme, National Lottery Awards for All. It’s a key part of our drive to use our funding to strengthen society and improve lives across the UK in 2024 and beyond.”

Top community priorities for 2024 (% ranked among top 3)

Physical environment Wellbeing
Safety on the streets (60%) Supporting people with the rising cost of living (30%)
Young people having places to go and things to do (44%) People caring and looking out for each other (25%)
Keeping the area looking nice (42%) Reducing loneliness and isolation (23%)
Having access to natural, green spaces (40%) Preventing youth violence (20%)
Community activities that bring people together (35%) Helping the local economy (19%)

Source: The National Lottery Community Fund’s Community Research Index

Agreeing with the findings, Jo Cooper, CEO at Back on the Map, said: “It’s encouraging to see how strongly people feel about their community across the UK, and the need to reduce deprivation for future generations. Back on the Map is committed to putting local people at the heart of everything we do in Hendon. This is so important for local ownership and pride of place.”

Back on the Map is on a long-term mission to regenerate its community after receiving £360,000 of National Lottery funding. The organisation aims to develop quality spaces for local people to meet and gain skills, transforming empty residential and commercial areas, and giving a voice to the community.

Meanwhile in South Yorkshire, b:friend has used almost £10,000 of National Lottery funding to bring together almost 165 older community members experiencing isolation.

Colette Bunker, Chief Executive Officer at b:friend, said: “The Community Research Index results show that feeling part of their community is a huge priority for lots of people across the UK.

“Not everyone has this opportunity, and we know how much people’s wellbeing can suffer from isolation. b:friend is all about ending isolation and loneliness for older people, and thanks to National Lottery players we’re continuing to do just that.”

National Lottery players raise over £30 million each week for good causes across the UK. Thanks to them, last year The National Lottery Community Fund awarded over half a billion pounds (£615.4 million) of life-changing funding to communities across the UK.

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