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Neighbourhoods Face 'Slow Death' Fuelled By Social Media And Technology, Ex-Downing Street Advisor Warns

Most would feel uncomfortable borrowing a cup of sugar.

02/08/2017 23:32 | Updated 03 August 2017

Neighbourhoods across the UK risk a “slow death”, a former Downing Street adviser has warned as research reveals most people don’t know who lives near them.

A new report commissioned by the social network Nextdoor, which aims to link people living in the same area, found 60 per cent would not feel able to borrow a cup of sugar from their neighbours.

The report blames social media, the internet, and communications technology for the growing alienation between neighbours, which appears to be more pronounced among young people.

It found 14% of 18-24 year olds felt lonely in their community, double the proportion (28%) that felt the same among the over-55s. 

Campaigners want the Government to follow the US and Australia and create an official national ‘Good Neighbours Day’, which would also build on the work of Brendan Cox, the husband of late MP Jo Cox, who started the Great Get Together this year.

Max Chambers, a former Number 10 policy adviser, said the UK is in danger of “sleepwalking towards the slow death of our neighbourhoods”.

Chambers said: 

“While we are ever more connected globally through the internet, we are losing touch with those immediately around us - and it was clear to us in government that the warning lights are flashing when it comes to social cohesion, isolation and feelings of belonging.

“If we are smart, we can use the power of technology to reconnect with our communities rather than continue to lose touch with them.”

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Research found people in the West Midlands were “most neighbourly” while London was the worst region for knowing their neighbours.

Dame Louise Casey, the Government’s former integration Tsar, backed the report, saying:

“The recent tragic events this country has suffered, from terrorist attacks to the Grenfell Tower disaster, have shown just how powerful the public can be when we pull together, united in the common good to protect and care for each other.

“We have been trying to fix the issues of community cohesion and social capital for a long time.  Government and public services will always have a role in this but it is the public - residents and families - first and foremost who are in the best position to knit that social fabric together.”

Professor Eddie Kane, Professor of Mental Health at Nottingham University and an author of the report, said technology had the potential “to be the friend of real-life interactions rather than their enemy”.

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