Barriers to belonging

Our report is an exploration of loneliness among people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

When we feel we belong, we feel less alone. Feeling valued, included, safe and able to join in community activities can play a big role in tackling loneliness.

Our report, Barriers to Belonging, explores the causes of loneliness and obstacles to seeking help for people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

Download the report (PDF)

Arrow icon View the key findings

Arrow icon View our recommendations

For more information please contact our media team on 020 7877 7557 / 07710 391 703 or press@redcross.org.uk

A British Red Cross support worker with a Connecting Communities service user.

The British Red Cross and Co-op commissioned this research from the Centre for Loneliness Studies at the University of Sheffield and the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think tank.

These findings draw on a survey of more than 950 people, predominantly from BAME backgrounds, as well as dozens of in-depth interviews.

Key findings

Our research shows that people from BAME backgrounds are more at risk of experiencing certain factors that cause loneliness and can often face greater barriers to accessing support. 

  • When we feel we belong, we feel less alone - feeling valued, included, safe and able to join in community activities helps to tackle loneliness. 
    • Sixty-seven per cent of respondents who felt they didn’t belong in their community said they were always or often lonely, compared to just 16 per cent who felt they did belong.
  • Discrimination, bullying and disrespect increases loneliness - racism, discrimination and xenophobia are all additional triggers of loneliness that have all too often been overlooked.
    • Almost half of people (49 per cent) who have experienced discrimination at work or in their local neighbourhood reported being always or often lonely, compared to just over a quarter (28 per cent) of people who hadn’t. 
    • Just 31 per cent of Black African respondents had not experienced any type of discrimination, compared to 74 per cent of White British respondents.
  • People from BAME backgrounds often feel less able to access community activities and support – ‘not having enough free time’ and ‘affordability’ are barriers to accessing support that are more commonly cited by all minority ethnic groups than by White British groups. ‘Lack of confidence’ and ‘not feeling welcome’ were the most common barriers for all groups, but White British groups were far less likely to feel unwelcome or as if a service is ‘not for them’.
  • Loneliness and stigma – stigma is a significant issue, with almost 60 per cent of all survey respondents admitting they didn’t feel confident talking about loneliness, and a third more saying they’d never admit to feeling lonely. Worrying about what people would think was higher for some minority ethnic groups.

Our recommendations

To make sure everyone can feel like they belong and get help for loneliness, we have made recommendations for government, local authorities and organisations providing services to help people overcome loneliness. These include:

1. Sustainable funding:

  • Government to guarantee significant and sustained financial commitment to tackle loneliness.
  • Investment by funders and civil society in community integration projects, co-designed with people from BAME backgrounds.

2. Equality of access and feeling welcome:

  • Educational materials on loneliness co-designed by people from BAME backgrounds.
  • Employers to take action to address discrimination and bullying in the workplace.
  • Collaboration between central and local governments to eliminate structural barriers to accessing support and building connections.
  • Service providers to prioritise taking steps to better reflect the community they aim to serve. 

3. Raising awareness and tackling stigma:

  • Government to dedicate a strand of its loneliness awareness campaign to tackle stigma among people who experience particular difficulties or challenges, including people from BAME backgrounds.  

4. Conducting further research:

  • Further collaboration between government and the Office for National Statistics to:
    • Develop guidance on using the UCLA measure of loneliness across different cultures and languages.
    • Carry out a large-scale, nationally representative quantitative study, exploring the prevalence of loneliness among people from BAME backgrounds as well as the intersectionality with other characteristics.