A new study has found that Scotland’s disconnected communities could be costing the local economy £731 million every year. This constitutes a portion of the £32 billion that makes up the total UK-wide cost.
The research, commissioned by Eden Project initiative The Big Lunch and funded by the Big Lottery, reveals the annual cost to Scotland’s public services of social isolation and disconnected communities, including:
- Demand on health services: £107 million (more than the cost of building a new Specialist Emergency Care hospital)
- Demand on policing: £12 million (equal to the UK median yearly salary of 387 police officers) 
Disconnected communities are also linked to a loss of productivity, with a net cost to the Scottish economy of nearly £252 million every year.
According to the research, which was carried out by leading economics consultancy the Centre of Economics and Business Research (Cebr), neighbourliness already delivers substantial economic benefits to Scottish society, representing an annual saving of £1.1 billion in total.
This saving comes from sharing between neighbours, an increase in social connection and reductions in the demands on public services such as healthcare, social care, welfare and the environment.
It also includes the productivity benefits associated with a happier and healthier workforce: a net gain to Scotland’s economy of £352 million. UK-wide the figure stands at £6.4 billion which is equivalent to 0.34% of UK GDP in 2015.
The Eden Project is an educational charity working to connect people with each other and the living world, with a view to exploring how we can work together towards a better future.
The Big Lunch is one of Eden’s most significant and best known initiatives, made possible by the Big Lottery Fund. The idea is for as many people as possible across the UK to have lunch with their neighbours annually on a Sunday in June, in a simple act of community, friendship and fun.
The Big Lunch commissioned Cebr to produce a study examining the impact of community-led initiatives on societal welfare and on the economy.
The study reveals that neighbourliness helps ease demand on public services by providing locally run alternatives, such as neighbourhood watch schemes and local litter picks.
The saving to Scotland’s public services equates to £161.2 million.
UK-wide, this figure stands at £2.9 billion today and could rise to £8.1 billion if all the people not currently involved in community activities like The Big Lunch switch to being involved.
It also reveals that neighbourliness has a huge welfare value to the Scottish people, with over £593 million saved each year because of resources shared and help provided by neighbours who know each other.
This comes in the form of helping elderly neighbours, childcare and babysitting, pet-sitting, doing DIY for each other, and sharing resources such as tools.
Peter Stewart MVO, Eden Project Executive Director said “We wanted to find out more about the impact of community-led initiatives like The Big Lunch – both the benefits to individuals’ health and well-being, and the economic impact. There is a lot of existing research suggesting that people feel happier, safer and more content when they live in connected communities and know their neighbours. However, this study reveals that the financial benefits to individuals and wider society are enormous too. There are more reasons than ever for communities to come together. Getting to know your neighbours through an initiative like The Big Lunch will bring you joy and happiness, and will also help save you and the UK money.”
The report is a combination of qualitative research and quantitative data – the latter garnered via a survey carried out by Cebr for the purposes of the study.
The research also estimates the potential magnitude of these benefits if more people in the UK got to know their neighbours and became more involved in community initiatives and activities, putting this figure at £55.5 billion in welfare terms, and a net gain to the macro economy of £18.1 billion – equivalent to almost 1% of UK GDP in 2015, through productivity improvements.
Oliver Hogan, Director Cebr said “With our report we have established the cost to society of disconnected communities. Our starting point is that community involvement can act to reduce loneliness and isolation and encourage positive change within communities. There is a lot of existing research on loneliness, so this study was shaped to provide a perspective on the costs imposed on society by disconnected communities.
“We found that, by increasing social capital, reducing isolation, and enhancing social inclusion, community activities and events lead to improvements in health, educational performance and socioeconomic circumstance. As such, they can help redress the balance between the need for and provision of public services and reduce the demands on those services. However, an element of the overall improvement in societal welfare also translates into productivity gains to the UK economy through a happier and healthier workforce.”
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Notes to editors
‘The Big Lunch Starter Pack’ registrations, are indicative of The Big Lunch participation numbers for the localities in and around each area.
The figures detail unique pack registrations 2009-2016, multiplied by the average event size. On average 97 people attend any given event.
The event size is the number of people attending each unique event. Pack registrations represent the people signing up to take part (organisers), but do not account for the large proportion of regular ‘Big Lunchers’ that take part year on year without needing to register for a new pack. Our research tells us that practiced Big Lunchers don’t tend to re-register for a starter pack after their first event. Pack registrations are thus ‘indicative’.
Our post event research showed that 7.3 million people across the UK took part in The Big Lunch in 2016. We know that by taking part, neighbours make new connections and friendships blossom. People often go on to become much more active in their neighbourhoods – better connected communities form.
With this report, we want to shine a light on the significant impact we believe that community initiatives have on the health, wealth and happiness of the nation.
Small steps can make a big difference.
Aberdeen = 3783
Dundee = 3492
D&G = 1358
Edinburgh = 12,125
Stirling, Clacks, Falkirk = 2328
Glasgow = 14,259
Western Isles = 291
Inverness/ Highland = 3201
Ayrshire = 6402
Orkney/ Caithness = 837
Fife = 4268
Lanarkshire = 2425
Renfrewshire and Argyll = 3783
Perth = 1162
Borders = 1552
Shetland = 194
About The Big Lunch
The Big Lunch edenprojectcommunities.com/thebiglunch is the UK’s annual get-together for neighbours, an idea from the Eden Project made possible by the Big Lottery Fund.
The Eden Project started The Big Lunch in 2009 with the belief that we’re better equipped to tackle the challenges we face when we face them together.
The Big Lunch is an initiative that is run by the Eden Project Communities team who connect people and communities across the UK, encouraging everyday people to make positive change where they live.
Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall is Patron of The Big Lunch.
Bringing communities together, reducing loneliness and isolation and helping to make a difference locally is at the heart of the Big Lottery Fund’s mission.
The Big Lunch is the perfect recipe for having fun with neighbours, feeding community spirit and helping to build stronger neighbourhoods. People are the key ingredient, with those taking part creating friendlier communities in which they start to share more – from conversation and ideas to skills and resources.
This year the annual event is takes place annually on a Sunday 18 June.
Over the past eight years, Big Lunches of all sizes have happened in all kinds of communities – in streets, back gardens, parks and local community venues. Thousands of events have taken place each year, with a whopping 7.3 million people taking part in 2016 in over 90,000 events.
It is never too late to take part in The Big Lunch. Anyone can request a free planning pack, which contains invitations, posters, seeds and stickers, at edenprojectcommunities.com or by calling 0845 850 8181 to speak to one of the team.
The Big Lunch can be found @edencommunities on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram.
Post-event research by Havas in 2016 highlights the benefits of The Big Lunch, including:
94% participants believe The Big Lunch will have a positive effect on their community
88% feel better about their neighbourhood
74% organisers feel a stronger sense of community since hosting a Big Lunch
77% created new relationships at the event that they wish to continue
90% believe it brings different generations together
89% feel closer to their neighbours following The Big Lunch
54% believe it brings people from different ethnic backgrounds together
98% organisers would recommend it to family or friends
Cebr is one of the UK’s leading independent economics consultancies. Using macroeconomics, microeconomics, econometrics, market and consumer surveys, quantitative and qualitative research, expert testimony and interviews, modelling and scenario planning, it provides insightful advice to both public and private sector clients.
Since 1992 Cebr has built a reputation on the clear communication and interpretation of economics. Applying underlying theory, practical sector experience and solid judgment to build a compelling narrative accompanying our analysis and insights, its skills are multi-disciplinary and the advice provided is based on a sound knowledge of demographic, social, technological, sector-specific and economic trends.
Its top-line predictions for the United Kingdom are published by HM Treasury and followed by the Bank of England, European Commission, FSA, most large international banks and many world governments.
Cebr’s primary areas of economic appraisal expertise are:
Econometric, spreadsheet and scenario modelling, demand forecasting, trend analysis, hypothesis testing and market research
Economic impact assessments and cost benefit analysis for policy formulation, development and evaluation
Designing, analysing and interpreting market and consumer surveys
Cross-sector and international benchmarking.