UK Communities on the brink of decline as two fifths feel disconnected


A major new study from the Co-op looking at the state of the UK’s communities, has revealed that over two fifths (43%) of people don’t feel part of the community in which they live, and nearly a tenth (8%) are on the fence about it.

People residing in the West Midlands are least likely to feel part of their community, followed by those in London and Scotland.

Top 5 regions with least engaged communities
1. West Midlands
2. London
3. Scotland
4. Wales
5. North East

Perhaps the reason for this lack of community spirit, the report identifies that communities can be seen as a sort of revolving door. Nearly a quarter (24%) of people don’t think they’ll live where they currently reside in five years’ time and almost a fifth (18%) are unsure.

For those who plan on moving out of their area in the next five years, over a quarter (26%) said it’s because they don’t feel a strong connection to their community, a fifth (20%) said they want to live closer to their friends and family and a further fifth (20%) said they’re currently renting and so have no housing security.

Almost a fifth (18%) said it’s too expensive to continue to live in their area, over a tenth (11%) said there aren’t any employment opportunities and almost a tenth (9%) said their current place of work is not close by.

Overall half (50%) of people think their area will be just the same in five years’ time, whilst over a fifth (22%) believe where they live is likely to get worse.

For those who think their area is going to be worse in five years’ time, two fifths (43%) said it’s because people are taking less pride in their community, a further two fifths (43%) said there’s no facilities such as shops or doctors’ surgeries and over a third (36%) said there’s not enough government or local council funding.

Top 10 reasons for community decline
1. People are taking less pride in their community
2. No facilities for people
3. Not enough government or local council funding
4. Not enough investment in green spaces or the environment
5. People are struggling and so becoming more insular
6. It’s too expensive to live there so people are leaving
7. Work and employment opportunities are leaving the area
8. Not enough housing
9. Young people are leaving the community
10. Fewer people are volunteering in the community

However, for those people who do plan on staying put, community connections shine through. Almost a quarter (23%) said they’ll stay where they are because of the connection they have to their community.

In terms of the impact of being part of a community, almost a fifth (19%) of people feel isolated, a sixth (16%) feel lonely and over a tenth (14%) feel unsupported. More than one in ten (11%) said not being part of their community makes them anxious and a further tenth (10%) are unhappy as a result.

In stark contrast, Northern Ireland tops the list as the area with the most engaged communities overall, followed by East of England and East Midlands.

Of those people who do feel engaged in their community, half (52%) said feeling this way gives them a sense of belonging, almost half (47%) agreed that it makes them feel safe and over two fifths (43%) said they feel as though they can rely on people.

For a further two fifths (43%) being part of their community makes them feel content and over a third (36%) said they feel they fit in.

In response to these findings, Co-op is introducing a further 150 Member Pioneers as a means of putting more people on the ground to helping make communities happier and healthier places to be.

Member Pioneers, funded by Co-op’s membership scheme bring people and local causes together, offering practical advice and help, making communities a better place to work, play, live and learn.

Rebecca Birkbeck, Director of Community & Membership at the Co-op said: “It’s concerning that so many people feel disconnected from their local community. Our study shows that when people come together good things happen which is crucial during these challenging times. Our Member Pioneers have a vital role to play in helping their local communities connect, which is why, through our Co-op membership scheme we’re going to be arming more communities with even more of these wonderful people.”