Loneliness is the biggest issue across communities in the UK, research by Church Urban Fund and the Church of England has found.
A survey carried out among 1,094 Anglican church leaders, conducted in September and October 2017, revealed that while churches have been instrumental in building communities and doing charitable work, the biggest challenge was how to tackle loneliness.
More than 75 per cent of church leaders called this a major or significant problem in their parishes, with little variation between the most and least deprived areas. Moreover, 60 per cent of church leaders reported mental health problems in their parish were becoming an issue which they needed to deal with — an increase on 40 per cent when the survey was first carried out in 2011.
To help counter problems of isolation, some 70 per cent of churches run three or more organised activities for the benefit of their local communities, such as parent/carer and toddler groups, community cafes, lunch clubs for older people, holiday clubs and youth work.
Churches in the most deprived areas are the most active in their communities, in terms of the range of activities they run, with 34 per cent of them running six or more of the activities listed, such as night shelters, debt advice and lunch clubs.
Churches in more deprived areas are also more actively engaged in campaigning and advocacy on social issues, the report found.