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Tackling loneliness in the wake of the pandemic

How local initiatives can tackle loneliness and build community resilience are discussed in the latest issue of The Manchester Briefing.

The Briefing, which is put together by Alliance Manchester Business School and the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, says tackling loneliness will be a key priority for community wellbeing in the next year, particularly in rural areas with high numbers of elderly residents.

It cites examples of good practice such as the TED (Talk, Eat and Drink) Ageing Better initiative in the Lincolnshire borough of East Lindsey which fosters sustainable resilience in older people by strengthening social capital in the community and providing specific support services.

When establishing community well-being initiatives it focuses on ‘flexible and person-centred’ activities. For instance its Magna Vitae Community Health Activity Project employs a range of outreach mechanisms (online, telephone, one to one and group meetings) to ensure its service is inclusive. This has led to higher levels of engagement, enabling the development of innovative activities to meet the diverse needs of the community.

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Sense of belonging

The need to strengthen peer-to-peer relationships which can develop ties amongst residents and increase their sense of belonging is also explored. In East Lindsey such initiatives have benefited from the delivery of activity packs that keep residents engaged and connected to people in their community during periods of isolation and social distancing.

The borough has also built on the relationships developed through well-being initiatives to support digital inclusion and build digital skills, such as through community donation programmes (computers/laptops) and skill-building workshops facilitated by local volunteers.

In Northern Ireland the Department for Communities works with libraries and national museums to deliver projects that address loneliness. For instance Supporting People is a programme which aims to improve levels of digital connectivity and digital inclusion.

And the Village Catalyst Pilot Project in Northern Ireland aims to tackle social isolation and rural poverty. The project repairs vacated buildings and repurposes them to improve local access to critical services and facilities, and provides increased space for community-led projects and social activities.

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Funding models for cities

This month’s Briefing also considers new funding models to increase city recovery and resilience. Cities have been in the forefront of the fight against the pandemic, providing emergency services, containing the spread of disease, mitigating the resulting social and economic impact, and coordinating efforts for recovery.

In addition, cities have delivered financial aid to companies and families in need, and reduced or suspended municipal taxes. All of this has impacted their public finances and there have been calls to change how cities are funded in order to increase fiscal resilience.

The current funding model for most cities around the world is primarily based on transfers from national governments. Own revenues, such as taxes, comprise the second most important source of revenue to cities, followed by external financing. The UN proposes reversing the current model, by decreasing the dependency on national transfers and increasing revenues from own revenues and external financing.

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Emergency funding

In particular the UN suggests that national governments could now provide emergency funding to cities for service provision, infrastructure, and special relief programmes.

They could also improve the accessibility of finance and credit for local governments, by allowing them direct access to grant and loan applications and enabling them to develop public private partnerships.

Moves to strengthen multilateral financing and cooperation to allow cities to fund recovery and renewal programmes are also proposed. For example international organisations, development banks, and national governments could establish dedicated global funds to finance urban responses to COVID-19.

And they could channel financial support to productive sectors most at need. City authorities could facilitate coordinated action across urban areas to provide loan programmes, grants, tax incentives, and temporary rent deferrals to businesses in need.

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A multi-dimensional framework for Recovery and Renewal

This month’s Briefing also introduces an updated framework which aims to support the development of recovery strategies and renewal initiatives. The updated framework reflects the profound lessons emerging from the pandemic, lessons which underline the need for a new generalisable framework that is practice-orientated and builds on the critical learning captured over the past 18 months.

To stimulate thinking and support those progressing local recovery and renewal, The Manchester Briefing has been sharing international lessons and examples underpinned by the Recovery and Renewal Framework since May 2020 (Issue 5).

Download this week's Manchester Briefing on COVID-19 (issue 42)

If you would like to contribute your knowledge to the Briefing contact