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Scotland allocates £3.8m to tackle social isolation and loneliness



The Scottish government has allocated £3.8 million to a new fund that aims to tackle social isolation and loneliness.

The Social Isolation and Loneliness Fund (SIAL), launched today (Thursday, March 9), will distribute funds to support projects and organisations tackling these issues until July 2026.

“As our society changes, there is increasing recognition of social isolation and loneliness as major public health issues that can have a significant impact on a person’s physical and mental well-being,” Equalities and Older People’s Minister Christina McKelvie said.

“The new Social Isolation and Loneliness Fund will provide vital, longer-term support for organisations and projects working on the ground to bring people together and build connections in communities throughout the country.”

The fund is open to applications from third sector organisations, grassroots or community groups including unincorporated voluntary organisations, clubs, SCIOs (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisations) and CICs (Community Interest Companies).

Schools or further education establishments are not eligible to apply.

While the fund is for everyone, certain groups – identified as being most at risk of loneliness and social isolation – will be prioritised.

These are young people (aged 16-24); disabled people; people with a mental health condition; older people (aged over 75); and people living in areas of deprivation or on a low income.

However, other applications relating to any ‘at risk’ groups, with a strong evidence base of need, will be considered.

These funded organisations must work towards achieving one or more of the following four outcomes:

  • Understanding increases around social isolation and loneliness and causes/impacts, along with understaning of what works to reduce it;
  • Social isolation and loneliness are reduced;
  • Harm resulting from the effects of social isolation and loneliness is reduced;
  • The conditions which help to reduce social isolation and loneliness are increasingly widespread.

In terms of specific activities, applications should consider the four priority areas of work outlined in the A Connected Scotland (2018) strategy:

  • Empowering communities and building a shared ownership;
  • Promoting positive attitudes and tackle stigma;
  • Creating opportunities for people to connect;
  • Supporting an infrastructure that fosters connection.

Community groups and organisations have until March 31, to submit an Expression of Interest form which can be found online. If successful in this application round, they will be invited to apply to stage two, which will close on April 28.

Overall successful applications will be notified in early July 2023 and the funding period will commence in August 2023.

Isolation and loneliness

The government defines social isolation as when an individual has an objective lack of social relationships (in terms of quality and/or quantity) at individual group, community and societal levels.

Scotland’s Mental Health Strategy 2023-2027 recognised the “unique challenges presented by rural isolation”, including issues around access to services and support when living in remote and rural areas.

“The challenge presented by isolation is keenly felt by many in our rural communities,” it said.

Meanwhile, loneliness according to the government, is a subjective feeling experienced when there is a difference between the social relationships we would like to have and those we have.

These two things, it added, can be experienced independently from one another.

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