The Big Lottery Fund has allocated £82m to reduce social isolation among older people as part of its six-year Fulfilling Lives: Ageing Better programme.
Partnerships made up of voluntary, statutory and private sector organisations will work to ensure that local services are better planned, coordinated and delivered, and the scheme will target up to 200,000 older people.
Fifteen organisations have been chosen to lead the development of more detailed plans to tackle social isolation and projects will start in summer 2015.
The largest award – for £10.2m – was allocated to the Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation, which supports local voluntary action.
The GMCVO Ambition for Ageing programme will commission groups in eight local authority areas from 1 April 2015. John Hannen, programme manager at the GMCVO, said the scheme would start by making small investments of £100 and upwards in local schemes, with the potential to scale up over the five-year project.
Organisations including Birmingham Voluntary Service Council, Age UK Bristol, Leeds Older People's Forum, Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind, South Yorkshire Housing Association and the Torbay Community Development Trust have each been awarded about £6m from the fund.
Nat Sloane, England chair of the BLF, said the programme would put older people at the centre of project design. "There are concerns about a ticking time bomb facing adult social care, but older people have a wealth of experience and skills to offer their communities," he said. "We need to tap into this to help them help themselves – and others – living alone."
Laura Ferguson, director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said the money was important because isolation among older people needed urgent investment. "The £82m fund will make a huge difference to the 15 areas that have been successful in their bids, but there are many more areas that were unsuccessful or did not even apply," she said. "In the past it has been far too easy to ignore or sideline issues such as loneliness, which are about preventing ill health in the long term.
"If those in charge of health and care budgets continue to take such a short-term approach, we might see services facing growing costs and unable to cope with the demand in the future."
The full list of successful organisations can be found here.